On the eve of the major fiestas celebrated every year in the Galician city of Santiago de Compostela, an Alvia train travelling from Madrid to Ferrol derailed on Wednesday night, leaving 78 people dead and more than 140 people injured, according to judicial sources from Galicia cited by news agency AFP. The total number of victims, initially put at dozens, grew steadily through the night as the rescue operation continued.
The accident happened at 8.41pm, just four kilometers from the train's next stop. The forces involved were such that one of the eight carriages ended up 15 meters from the track.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy -- who was born in Galicia -- has traveled to Santiago de Compostela with the regional premier, Alberto Núñez Feijóo. Both were on the site of the accident by around 10.45am on Thursday.
Two of the survivors of the incident told EL PAÍS how they could feel the train taking a bend in the track, under the viaduct carrying Galicia's main toll road.
When they opened their eyes, they said, they were surrounded by bodies.
The train operator, who suffered light injuries, admitted straight after the accident that the train was traveling at 190km/h on the stretch of track, which has a limit of 80km/h.
This is the first deadly accident to be registered on a high-speed train line in Spain and is the most serious rail incident to be seen in the country in the last 40 years.