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More than 200 emergency workers descended on the scene in the minutes after the crash, and rescue workers from several surrounding counties also pitched in. The workers used heavy rescue equipment to cut people out of the train debris, and fire officials deployed large ambulances called mass-casualty buses from the District and surrounding jurisdictions.

See related story: Train crash leaves indelible mark

Passengers interviewed afterward said that the accident occurred without warning and was accompanied by a loud, booming sound similar to an explosion and that the impact threw passengers onto the floor and against the train walls.

“You could just hear the train going on top of the other train,” said D’Ana Williams, 27, who lives near the crash scene. “My grandmother thought it sounded like thunder. It sounded like two dump trucks colliding into each other.”

“It [felt] like a shock,” said William Graves Jr., 64, who was riding aboard the second train.

Mr. Graves said he dropped to the floor and covered his head. Another person pulled the emergency cord, and Mr. Graves climbed out, uninjured.

“I’m lucky,” he said.

Train passenger Jody Wickett told CNN that she was texting a friend when she was sent hurtling through the air of the subway car.

“We felt like we hit a bump and about five or 10 seconds later, the train just came to a complete halt, and we went flying,” Miss Wickett said, according to the Associated Press.

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Gale Griffin, who lives a half block from the crash site, said she heard a loud noise shortly after 5 p.m. It sounded “like a bomb went off,” she said.

Alvaro Daniel Lopez said he went to a bridge overlooking the Takoma Metro station when he heard noise from the crash.

“I felt nervous because a lot of people were screaming,” said Mr. Lopez, 25. “I had never heard things like that.”

On Monday evening, Union Station was filled with Metro riders who could not get home. The line of about 100 people waiting for a taxi extended from the main entrance of Union Station all the way to the end of the massive building.

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