Seven bodies have been recovered, but a further 26 people remain unaccounted for. Norwegian police fear that they may still be in the wreckage. Amongst those missing are the drivers of both trains.
The accident occurred at about 13:30 local time at Aasta station near Aamot, on the Roeros line of Norwegian State Railways. An intercity train travelling south from Trondheim was in head-on collision with a local train. This was en route between Hamar and Rena.
One of the locomotives overturned and several carriages were derailed. Fire broke out amongst in several of the carriages which was fed by the locomotive's diesel fuel.
The ferocity of the fire severely hampered rescue efforts. Even after it was extinguished, some four hours later it was still not possible for rescue workers to enter the burnt-out carriages because of the extreme heat. Darkness which falls early in the winter further hindered rescue work.
The trains were carrying 100 people - 96 passengers and 4 crew. Twenty-two were seriously hurt in the accident and a further 45 received minor injuries.
The section of line on which the collision occurred is single and one of the trains should have been held at a passing place by a stop signal. The Roeros line is the only one in Norway not equipped with Automatic Train Protection which would prevent a driver from inadvertently passing a danger signal. The line is due to be upgraded with ATP next year.
Norway's previous worst accident was on February 22, 1975 north of Tretten station when 2 trains were in head-on collision. Twenty-seven people were killed.
file last updated: Tuesday, 04-Jan-2000 22:30:31 EST
Copyright © David Fry 1999