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Investigators probe speeding in Bulgaria train blast

Sofia: Bulgarian investigators said on Tuesday that speeding, not deliberate action, was the most likely cause of a gas train derailment and explosion that left seven people dead.

The blast early on Saturday devastated the small northeastern village of Hitrino, leaving another 29 people needing hospital treatment and ruining dozens of nearby houses.

“Our main lead is high speed, greatly surpassing the limit for entering the train station,” Chief Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov told journalists in Shumen, the nearest town to Hitrino.

“At this stage we rule out the (possibility of)… deliberate action.”

Prosecutors will have the results from the train’s two speed boxes by December 19, he added.

They will then be matched against other evidence to determine the cause of the accident.

The tail of the train of over 20 tankers of highly flammable propylene and propane butane gases derailed and one tanker exploded, ripping through the village and flattening houses, while fires then raged for several hours.

So far investigators have not established any deviations from the usual procedure and the signals issued by station officials to an incoming train, Tsatsarov said.

But he noted that the train had arrived ahead of schedule at the station, where it was due to wait in a bypass for a passenger train coming from the opposite direction.

Firefighters were meanwhile continuing the risky operation of pumping out the gas from the damaged tankers in order to be able to pull them from the area of the blast.

Hitrino’s over 1,000 inhabitants, who were evacuated from their homes on Saturday, were still barred from returning to their ravaged village as authorities promised to help rebuild the ruined houses.

The interior ministry on Monday revised the number of victims from eight back to seven.

Several of those wounded in the blast were still battling life-threatening injuries, hospital authorities said.

Agence France-Presse