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7 Die in Norway Train Collision

January 5, 2000

RENA, Norway (AP) _ Searchers today picked through the twisted, charred wreckage of two passenger trains that crashed head-on and were engulfed in flames, killing at seven people.

The two passenger trains, with 100 people aboard, collided Tuesday 110 miles north of Oslo. Seven bodies were found shortly after the crash and 26 more were missing and feared dead. Another 30 were injured in what could become the worst rail accident in Norway’s history.

``What we are doing now is bringing the bodies out,″ said Ove Osgjelten of the district police. He said it would probably take all day today and Thursday to recover the bodies, many of which were badly burned.

A fire in the wrecked trains burned for hours and blocked efforts to rescue those trapped inside or recover additional bodies until early today. Some victims burned alive.

``The worst thing to experience is to stand there and watch people burn ... going through that train and seeing people who were alive and conscious who we couldn’t help,″ said Ola Sunderaal, an ambulance crewman who was one of the first on the scene.

Officials said the search of the still smoldering wreckage would be slow and difficult because many bodies will have to be cut out of the wreckage.

``One of the locomotives, which weighs 100 tons, is leaning, and it is impossible to know if it is secure,″ Haakon Grimstad of the state railways directorate told The Associated Press. He said it wasn’t even clear in which cars the missing victims were located.

Some rescuers spent the night in military tents set up at the site, with the smell of smoke pervading the winter air. Early today, soldiers formed a ring around the wreckage to protect it from intruders.

If the death toll reaches 33, it would be Norway’s worst train wreck, surpassing a 1975 two-train collision that killed 27.

``This is a catastrophe,″ Transportation Minister Dag Jostein Fjaervoll said in Oslo.

Late Tuesday, district Police Chief Magnar Lynum said he saw no hope that the 26 missing could have survived the fire. The engineers on both trains were among the missing.

A local train with 17 people aboard and a larger regional express with 83 people aboard were probably each going up to 55 mph around a curve when they crashed head-on, according to the state railroad directorate.

The diesel trains _ one southbound and the other northbound _ collided at 1:30 p.m. at the Aasta Station in Aamot township near the town of Rena.

The cause of the accident was being investigated. The section of track did not have a system that would automatically stop trains headed for each other and was due for an upgrade next year.

Passenger Rasmus Alme, 20, said he tried to save two women who were caught in the wreckage, but the flames forced him to flee.

``It was terrible. I so badly wanted to save them,″ he was quoted as telling the Oslo newspaper Verdens Gang. ``The heat was so intense. The women asked me to stay, but I had to jump.″

Steffen Solberg, head of the medical team, said rescuers worked for four hours to cut a 33-year-old woman out of the wreckage. He said firefighters kept the blaze from consuming her until she was finally rescued.

It was the second serious public transport accident in Norway in just over a month. On Nov. 26, 16 people drowned when a high-speed ferry ran aground and sank.

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