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Thursday, June 4, 1998 Published at 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK

World: Europe

Kohl sees scene of carnage

The collapsed bridge prevented rescue workers from reaching carriages

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt reports from the scene of the train disaster
Rescuers have spent the day trying to reach two carriages under the debris from Wednesday's German high-speed train disaster, but they say the chance of finding anyone alive is remote.

Chancellor Helmut Kohl visited the scene of the crash, after cutting short a visit to Italy.

[ image: Chancellor Kohl thanked emergency staff]
Chancellor Kohl thanked emergency staff
He thanked rescue workers and medical staff for their efforts.

So far, 91 people, including six children, have been confirmed dead as a result of the accident. Some of the injured who were pulled from the wreckage died later in hospital.

The rescue operation has been concentrating on gaining access to a first-class carriage and a dining car trapped beneath a collapsed bridge.

Pictures from the scene of the rescue operation
With the occupants of the two remaining carriages almost certain to be dead, the toll in Germany's worst post-war train accident is expected to rise to 120. If the fears are confirmed, it will be the worst train accident in Germany for 50 years.

Up to 300 people have been injured, many seriously.

There is now some doubt as to whether the two school groups who were previously unaccounted for were in fact on the train at all.

Joachim Greiss, journalist and eyewitness to the crash
An investigation into the cause of the disaster has ruled out the theory that a car fell on to the line in front of the train.

The car found among the wreckage appears to have fallen from the collapsing bridge when the train rammed into it at 200km/h (120mph).

[ image: More than1,000 rescuers worked at the scene]
More than1,000 rescuers worked at the scene
There are reports that a number of railway workers seen near the tracks before the accident are missing, presumed dead. It is not clear if repairs to the track had anything to do with the accident.

The rescue operation took longer than anticipated. Workers had to prevent debris from the damaged bridge from falling and crushing any survivors in the carriages.

The bulk of the operation is now expected to be completed by Thursday evening.

Estimates of the number of people travelling on the train range from 400 to 800. The lack of an exact figure makes it difficult to determine the number of dead and injured.

The train crash happened at 1100 local time (0900 GMT) on Wednesday. The train, travelling from Munich to Hamburg, went off the rails in the town of Eschede, 35 miles (50km) north of Hanover.

Many passengers died after being thrown from their seats.

Rescue officials were on the scene in minutes. At one point, more than 1,000 rescuers were on the scene including trauma surgeons and border patrol personnel. Army doctors and 20 British soldiers from a nearby base at Celle also fought to free victims.

Cranes and military tanks were brought in to shift the wreckage.

Doctors battled at the scene of the crash to save the lives of the badly injured, conducting emergency blood transfusions amid the rubble. Other injured passengers were airlifted to hospital.

The crash is the first involving the recently introduced Inter-City express trains.

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