By Stine Jacobsen and Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen
COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Six people were killed when a passenger train hit a freight trailer that had blown off a wagon coming the other way on a bridge linking Denmark’s two main islands on Wednesday, officials said.
The train with 131 passengers on board was heading towards the capital, Copenhagen, when it hit the trailer. Apart from the dead, 16 people were injured but were not in critical condition, police said.
The accident happened shortly before 7.35 a.m. (0635 GMT) during a severe storm that hampered the rescue operation on the 18-km (11-mile) Great Belt Bridge between Zealand and Funen, Denmark’s two major islands.
“This morning’s tragic accident on the Great Belt Bridge with many killed and wounded has shaken us all,” Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen tweeted.
“Ordinary Danes on their way to work or on the way home from Christmas holidays have had their lives shattered.”
A preliminary investigation by the Danish Accident Investigation Board showed a trailer had blown off a freight wagon onto the oncoming tracks, a spokesman said.
“There was a very, very loud bang and then the train stopped,” a witness who had been onboard the train with his daughter told broadcaster TV2.
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven blamed the weather. “Terrible train accident on the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark as a result of the storm Alfrida. Our thoughts are with the injured and with the families and relatives of the dead,” he tweeted.
TV footage showed a severely damaged freight trailer adorned with the logo of Danish beer maker Carlsberg
A train operated by DB Cargo, the logistics arm of Germany’s Deutsche Bahn
DB Cargo was on site and “doing its utmost to support the investigation”, Deutsche Bahn said in a statement. A spokesman said the trailers were fastened to the railcars with metal rods, a system in use across Europe.
The bridge remained closed for trains while car traffic in both directions resumed. Danish rail operator Banedanmark said it did not expect rail traffic by to resume before Thursday.
The Great Belt, part of a route that links Denmark and Sweden to Germany, carries around 21,000 train passengers and more than 27,000 vehicles each day.
(For graphic on location map of crash site, click: https://tmsnrt.rs/2Au4Hex)
(Additional reporting by Sabine Siebold in Berlin; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)