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BBC's Peter Hunt reports
"There are fears the death toll will rise"
 real 28k

Crash survivor Sarah Muscroft talks to the BBC
"It was an unbelievable experience"
 real 28k

Passenger Ben Stephenson talks to Peter Hunt
"We consider ourselves very lucky"
 real 28k

The BBC's Tony Samstag in Oslo
"At one stage at least three fires were burning"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 5 January, 2000, 03:04 GMT
Norway crash rescue suspended

The blaze lasted several hours, hampering rescue efforts

Rescuers have suspended work at the scene of the Norwegian train crash which has claimed seven lives and left scores injured because it is too dangerous to continue.

The mission will resume at first light.

Twenty six people are still missing after the two passenger trains collided at high speed in the south of the country.

An express train travelling from the west coast city of Trondheim towards the capital collided with a local train, which should have been waiting for the intercity service to pass but was unaccountably on the move.

Police feared some were still trapped in the wreckage, which blazed for several hours after the accident.

Several carriages overturned after the two locomotives crashed head-on at the remote Aasta station, near Elverum, about 150km (100 miles) north of Oslo.

Rescue services were swiftly at the scene

A senior policeman at the scene, Ove Osgjelten, said: "There are still people in the trains ... I can't even guess how many".

Police said some burnt out carriages were so hot they could not be investigated before Wednesday morning.

Rescuers said they had been hampered by a wall of fire, as well as dense forest and the early winter nightfall.

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One passenger, Robert Ulriksen, said he had seen at least two people trapped in the crash.

"We tried to get them out but couldn't. We kept them calm until the ambulance personnel arrived," he said.

"The train had turned over and was on its side. Baggage and passengers were spread around the aisle," he told NRK public radio.

Ambulances ferried the injured to nearby hospitals

Another passenger, Jeanette Haug, said: "People said there was fire and we had to get out. But it was calm and I think people did well."

Sheriff Per Ravnkleven, who led rescue efforts, said the scene had been chaotic.

"We have control over the situation in the degree possible in relation to such an accident scene," he said.

Four helicopters and eight ambulances were involved in the rescue operation.

Doctor Tore Kristiansen of the Hedmark Hospital told reporters that a surgeon had been sent to help extract passengers and "perform amputations". Rescue dogs were also used to locate bodies and survivors.

A nearby national highway was closed to all but emergency services. Weather conditions were described as difficult.

Accounting for those on board was made more difficult because some of the uninjured were thought to have left the scene. Police were appealing for them to get in contact.

"We can confirm seven dead," Jostein Loken, a deputy police chief in Elverum, said. He said 22 people had been taken to hospital. At least one person was airlifted to Bergen.

A further 47 were driven to a local hotel set up as a crisis centre - leaving up to 30 unaccounted for as police continued to check lists of survivors.

One passenger, Johan Atle Lein, told Norwegian TV2 shortly after the crash that he feared "there might be 10 or 15 dead".

Officials at the Norwegian state railways originally said 96 people had been on board the two trains, but spokesman Arne Vidar Heshedal later revised the estimate to about 100 people.

No warning

Passengers said there had been no warning of the crash - which happened at around 1345 local time (1245 GMT).

National Railway spokesman Arvid Bardstuen said that it was too early to establish the cause. A national investigating team was on its way to the site.

One train was an express from Trondheim to Oslo. It was carrying 83 passengers. The other was a local train heading from Hamar to Rena, with 17 passengers.

The accident is the most serious on the Norwegian train system since 1975, when 27 people were killed in a crash in the same part of the country.

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