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Five maintenance workers killed in northern Italy train accident

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AFP/The Local - [email protected]
Five maintenance workers killed in northern Italy train accident
A train hit and killed five people as they were conducting track maintenance work on the Milan-Turin line. Photo by INA FASSBENDER / AFP

Five railway workers were killed in northern Italy after being hit by a train during overnight maintenance works, officials and firefighters said on Thursday.

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The train, which was transporting wagons on the Milan-Turin line and had no passengers, was travelling at 160 kilometres (99 miles) per hour when it hit the team replacing parts of the track near Brandizzo, on the outskirts of Turin, the AGI and Ansa news agencies said.

"Five workers were killed by a passing train, two others injured," the fire service said in a brief statement.

The bodies of the men, reported to be aged between 22 and 52 years old, were said to have been dragged for several metres.

Two of their colleagues were unharmed but remain under observation in hospital, while the train driver was in shock but uninjured, according to Italian news agencies.

RFI, the company which manages Italy's rail network, confirmed that five workers from an external contractor died when a train "not in commercial service" hit them shortly before midnight.

It offered its "deep sorrow" and condolences for the families of the victims, and said investigations were underway.

Paolo Bodoni, the mayor of Brandizzo, told AGI an emergency worker had described to him a "chilling scene, with human remains across 300 metres".

"It's a huge tragedy," he said.

"It cannot be excluded that there could have been a communication error," he said, but added that would be a matter for investigations.

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Turin mayor Stefano Lo Russo described it as a "huge tragedy, which leaves us all shocked", offering his thoughts to the families of those killed.

The train line between Turin and Milan remained suspended on Thursday morning.

Rail operator Trenitalia said in a statement that “Intercity and regional train services may experience delays, cancellations, route limitations and bus replacements” during the day.

Trenitalia also advised passengers to check their journey status via their Cerca Treno online service.

'Terrible tragedy'

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni offered her "deepest condolences" to the men's families and said she was closely following the case, "with the hope of shedding light on what happened as soon as possible".

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Deputy premier and transport minister, Matteo Salvini, also lamented a "terrible tragedy".

"The rule is that works on the tracks can begin when it is confirmed that there are no trains on the line," he said.

"Prosecutors and technicians are investigating how such a dramatic accident could have happened last night."

Luigi Sbarra, the head of one of Italy's biggest trade unions, CISL, said he was left "stunned" by the accident. "Five workers died, five families...destroyed due to the failure to apply safety measures," he said.

"It is yet another tragedy that outrages all Italian workers."

The head of transport union Uiltrasporti, Claudio Tarlazzi, said the accident was "shameful and unworthy of a civilised country". He said his union had for some time raised safety concerns with RFI.

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Elly Schlein, head of the centre-left Democratic Party, also offered her condolences to the victims of the "terrible massacre".

While she said she would wait for the inquiries, she demanded an urgent plan of investment in safety in the workplace.

"One thing is already certain – we cannot be a country where people continue to die of work," she said.

Two rail workers died and 31 people were injured in February 2020 when the train they were travelling on derailed before dawn near Lodi, south of Milan.

Before that, Italy's most recent serious train accident occurred in January 2018, when three women died and about 100 passengers were injured when a packed train derailed near Milan due to poor track maintenance.

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