The number of people dead after a train derailed in one of Spain’s worst rail disasters has reportedly risen as high as 45.

Many more are said to be critically injured and Spanish media reported emergency services were attempting to rescue several people still trapped inside carriages.

Lines of bodies covered with blankets were seen at the side of the tracks.

The crash happened as the train carrying 218 passengers plus crew approached Santiago de Compostela, a popular pilgrimage city in the northwestern region of Galicia.

Several of the 13 carriages rolled over, with one carriage torn open and flames and smoke seen rising from the scene.

Official casualty figures have not been released, but the head of the Galicia region, Alberto Nunez, said the death toll had reached up to 45 after he initially put the figure at 35.

Mr Nunez added that 70 people had been injured, with 20 of them seriously hurt.

He said it was too soon to say what had caused the derailment. It has been described as an accident, but it will stir memories of the 2004 Madrid train bombing, which killed nearly 200 people.

One passenger, Ricardo Montesco, told Cadena Ser radio station: “It was going so quickly … It seems that on a curve the train started to twist and the wagons piled up one on top of the other.

“A lot of people were squashed on the bottom.

“We tried to squeeze out of the bottom of the wagons to get out and we realised the train was burning … I was in the second wagon and there was fire … I saw corpses.”

A witness told the station they heard an explosion before seeing the derailed train. Another witness told the Radio Galega station: “There are many people dead here, my God.”

The train belonging to the state-owned Renfe company was travelling from Madrid to the port city of Ferrol.

It derailed on high-speed tracks at about 8.40pm local time – 7.40pm UK time – on a bend a short distance from a scheduled stop in the city.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who is due to visit the scene on Thursday, called an emergency meeting with ministers and said: “I want to express my affection and solitarity with the victims of the terrible train accident in Santiago.”

The crash happened the day before the city’s main festival paying tribute to the St James, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples. His shrine is the destination of the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, which has been followed by Christians since the Middle Ages.

source: skynews