Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 16:32 UK

Eye-witness: My cousin was killed


Amateur footage captured by Lessandro Bongiorni shows the immediate aftermath of the explosion

More than a dozen people have been killed and 50 injured injured after a freight train carrying liquefied gas derailed and exploded in the northern Italian town of Viareggio on Monday night.

Two local residents describe the destruction and shock caused by the accident.

Dr Enrico Petri

My 90-year-old cousin is one of the 16 people who died last night. He was in bed when the gas tanks exploded and he had no chance. His carer did try to get him out of the house, but sadly the flames left them no possibility of escaping.

After I got the emergency call, I went straight to the emergency department of the town's Versilia hospital.

There were 36 people there with 80-90% burns. I've never seen anything like this in my 35 years practice as a hospital emergency physician. It's how I imagine a war situation - like how it is in Iraq, or after a terrorist attack.

I was proud and very moved to witness how very well everyone was working - from the doctors and nurses to the porters.

We were one united team with medical personnel arriving from other departments - all hands on deck. Their expertise was put to the test in a terrible, tragic situation.

But everyone expressed a great sense of solidarity in doing their best to reduce the the suffering of patients and their loved ones - it was profoundly moving. Solidarity and unity against a cruel destiny.

Kathy Bennett-Powell
I live quite near the station. I was up working when I heard the blast. At first I thought it was a thunder storm - followed immediately by a massive commotion by the seagulls.

Shortly afterwards I could hear all different types of sirens - ambulance, fire and police, all going to and fro. I realised something serious had happened and turned on the local TV station.

The area is densely populated, so people are raising the question why dangerous substances are being carried through the centre of town.

In the morning there was a heavy stench. I went to the station to see what's happened and to make sure someone I know who lives nearby is fine.

There were many other people cycling to the site to see for themselves.

The area is cordoned off, though I managed to get as close as 100m away. The destruction there was incredible - a whole street next to the station was destroyed. Cars were burnt, traffic lights and street lights - melted.

It was absolutely shocking and I kept seeing shocked faces everywhere.

If this had happened in July or August at the height of the tourist season, the number of victims and injured people would have been much higher. The area is densely populated, so people are raising the question why dangerous substances are being carried through the centre of town.

On a more positive note, the emergency services have done a great job. The scene has almost been cleared. This is incredible given that most of them are run on a voluntary basis.

There is great solidarity as people phone and text each other to make sure that family and friends are fine.

Viareggio is a close-knit community which lives for the summer season and the arrival of weekend beach-lovers from the cities inland. If train services are affected, this will be another blow to the local economy after a poor start to the season due to bad weather.

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