Five rail workers were killed by a train while doing maintenance work on the tracks near the town of Brandizzo, in northern Italy, on Thursday morning. The train, which was transporting empty wagons on the Milan-Turin line, was traveling at 160 km/h (99 mph) when it hit the workers.
The workers were part of a team of seven who were replacing a section of the track outside the station. Two of them managed to escape unharmed, while the other five were fatally struck by the train. The train driver was treated for shock at the scene, but was not injured.
The cause of the accident is still under investigation, but preliminary reports suggest that there was a lack of communication between the workers and the train operator. The mayor of Brandizzo, Paolo Bodoni, said that there were indications that the crew of the train was unaware that there were workers on the tracks.
The Italian railway network (RFI) expressed its “deep sorrow” and “deep condolences” to the families of the victims. It also said that it would cooperate fully with the authorities to clarify the circumstances of the tragedy.
The incident has raised questions about the safety of rail workers and the adequacy of the signaling system. The trade union representing the workers said that it would hold a strike on Friday to protest against the “unacceptable” working conditions and to demand more protection for its members.
The accident has also shocked the local community and the country. The governor of Piedmont, Alberto Cirio, said that he was “close to the families and colleagues of the victims”. The prime minister, Mario Draghi, expressed his “deep pain” and his “solidarity” with the affected families.