- The Washington Times - Monday, April 12, 2010

ROME (AP) — A cascade of rocks and debris slammed onto a small commuter train traveling through the Italian Alps, causing it to derail and killing at least nine people while injuring another 30 aboard.

The wreckage — still atop the tracks in a mountain valley near the Austrian border — was mired in mud from the landslide unleashed by a burst irrigation pipe, officials said.

One of the two train cars was destroyed, its windows shattered, ANSA news agency reported, adding that about 40 people were on board at the time of the accident.

Irene Hell, an official with the fire department in Bolanzo, the Alpine region’s largest city, said nine people were killed. Initially, fire officials reported 11 dead, but Ms. Hell said that was due to confusion in the first hours after the derailment.

Sky TV, reporting from the hamlet of Castelbello, near the accident scene, quoted authorities as saying three people were believed to be missing.

Giuseppe Marazzi of the local firefighters said seven of the injured were hospitalized in serious condition.

“The landslide occurred at the very passage of the train,” Thomas Widmann, a transport official in nearby Bolzano city, told Sky Italia. “It hit the train.”

He said the burst pipe had triggered the rock fall onto the train about 9:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m. EDT). Temperatures were too high to freeze the water in the pipe; authorities said they were investigating why it had burst. The train was nearing its destination of Merano, about 300 kilometers north of Venice, after departing from the small town of Malles.

Helicopters, ambulances and firefighters rushed to the scene. Rescuers with shovels were digging in the mud, while a huge crane was on site to remove the wreckage, ANSA said.

Trees prevented the destroyed train car from plunging into a river.

The train line runs between the Adige River and mountains.

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