Italy train crash probe focuses on antiquated alert system

Investigators are trying to determine the cause of a head-on train crash in southern Italy in which 23 people were killed.

They are focusing in particular on the antiquated telephone alert system used to advise station masters of trains running on the single track.

Recovery operations using a giant crane and rescue dogs continued to remove the mangled debris after the two commuter trains slammed into one another in the Puglia region just before noon on Tuesday.

After visiting the crash site between the towns of Andria and Corato, Premier Matteo Renzi declared it an “absurd” tragedy and vowed to investigate fully. His transport minister was due to brief parliament later last evening.

Union leaders and railway police blamed human error, noting that that particular stretch of track did not have an automatic alert system that would engage if two trains were close by on the same track.

Instead, news reports said the alert system relied on station masters phoning one another to advise of a departing train.

“Surely one of the two trains shouldn’t have been there,” said railway police Commander Giancarlo Conticchio. “And surely there was an error. We need to determine the cause of the error.”

Italian Red Cross workers were shuttling family members to the morgue in Bari, the regional capital, to help identify the dead.

Coroner Franco Introna told the Ansa news agency that 22 bodies were at the morgue, with a 23rd expected to arrive later from Andria.

Passengers described being thrown forward at the moment of impact.


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