A high-speed train derailed in eastern Australia early yesterday, injuring more than 120 passengers as carriages slammed into trees and plowed through nearby fields. Medical staff said it was a miracle nobody was killed.
The train had 156 passengers and seven crew on board when it came off the tracks at 12:15am, about 400km north of Brisbane, a Queensland state police spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity.
Many passengers were likely sleeping when they were suddenly tossed around the carriages as they careened off the tracks.
"I was thrown against the window and the awareness of my face smashing against the window pane was the first thing I knew," said 67-year-old Patricia Ponting. "It felt as if we were going along a corrugated surface, then a couple of the kids screamed and then it just came to an abrupt halt."
The cause of the accident was not immediately known. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau immediately launched an investigation.
"The train is just a twisted wreck, it's an absolute bloody mess," a Queensland Ambulance Service spokesman said. "There are carriages on their side, bent and twisted and there are bogies [wheels] all over the place."
Some carriages almost slid onto the adjacent Bruce Highway, the major east coast road.
"The train plowed through the dirt like a bulldozer," the unnamed ambulance spokesman told reporters. "It's taken out trees, anything that was in its path has gone."
The more than 120 people hurt included 35 people being treated for major injuries and two listed in serious condition, said Dr John Scott of Queensland state's health department.
"To get away with the small number of [serious] injuries we have, I think is incredible," Scott told Australian television.
The train was traveling from Brisbane to the northern town of Cairns when it crashed and was likely carrying some tourists.
Seven of the nine carriages plowed off the tracks, the police spokeswoman said.
Queensland Rail, the company that operates the train, said two drivers and a crew member were among the injured. The remainder were passengers.