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Thursday, June 4, 1998 Published at 09:29 GMT 10:29 UK

World: Europe

'Death came at 10:59'

Across Germany, the crash of the high-speed Inter-City Express train dominates newspaper front pages.

"Death came at 10:59" is the headline on Germany's best-selling daily, Bild Zeitung, and like all other papers it focuses on the horror, tragedy and mystery of the crash.

Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung quotes a police spokesman who says that so far there can only be speculation as to what caused the crash. The Hamburger Morgenpost's headline is typical: "How could this happen?"

Berlin's taz, die tageszeitung points out that the ICE has a very high safety record. The train is much heavier than those in France, which makes it less likely that the train was knocked off its tracks. But there are other factors, writes the taz. The system of axles used on French trains is more advanced and this could have been the ICE's Achilles heel.

Several papers wonder whether the track was sabotaged - a bone-chilling thought, writes Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Mighty bang

Most carry harrowing eye-witness accounts from the scene.

The Hamburger Morgenpost quotes one of the survivors, Wolf-Rüdiger Schliebener. Seconds before the crash he heard a loud rattling. Everybody looked up and his first thought was that hooligans had thrown debris onto the track.

Next he heard a mighty bang, pieces of railway track came piercing through the carriage floor, then a huge cloud of dust blinded everybody on board. Mr Schliebener managed to scramble out of the wreckage, and stumbled towards the nearby train station of Eschede, past mangled bodies and debris, lucky to be alive.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reports how Hermann Hörnicke, who lives near the collapsed railway bridge, tried to help with the rescue. When he arrived at the scene the whole area was strewn with glass, pieces of bent steel, strips of clothing, wallets, hand bags, gold chains torn from passengers.

Together with a couple of neighbours he pulled two men and a woman out of the wreckage. They tried to give first aid, all three were seriously injured.

Town tried to help

There was blood everywhere, says Mr Hörnicke, but the worst was the whimpering of the victims still trapped in the carriages.

The whole town, reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung, came to help, but for many the carnage was too harrowing. A fireman tells of his horror as he had to pick up body parts, and a doctor tells of the difficulties identifying the victims.

In its editorial the Süddeutsche Zeitung writes that the accident is even more of a shock because train crashes are such a rarity. We live in an age of high speed and great mobility, writes the Süddeutsche, but the crash is a reminder that no form of mobility is completely safe.

Die Welt in Berlin takes a similar line. No technology is failsafe, whether it is ships, cars, planes or trains. The paper calls for a painstaking examination to discover the cause of the accident.

According to Die Welt, one aspect should be examined most urgently: drivers of high-speed trains have hardly any early warnings of hazards ahead.

The Kölner Stadtanzeiger reflects on the magnitude of the catastrophe of the Enschede train crash. The paper writes that giving consolation to the victims and their families is all but impossible. Finding out what caused the crash is the least that should be done.

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