Crane lifts train crash wreckage
A powerful crane has lifted the carcass of the most damaged of four train carriages that derailed near Paris, killing six people and injuring nearly 200.
Authorities had feared more victims would be found under the wreckage but none was discovered, said Essonne region governor Michel Fuzeau.
"We are now assured that there are no more victims," Mr Fuzeau said after the start of the delicate operation by the 700-ton crane. The machine is to remove the carriages from the tracks at Bretigny-Sur-Orge station one by one.
On Friday, four carriages slid off the tracks as the train sped through town, which was not a stop on its journey from Paris to central France.
Human error has been ruled out by France's transport minister and the focus of the investigation is on a detached piece of metal in a switching joint on the tracks. The national rail company, SNCF, has already taken blame for the incident, which occurred at the start of a busy holiday weekend.
"The SNCF considers itself responsible," rail company chief Guillaume Pepy said. "It is responsible for the lives of its clients."
The packed train, carrying around 385 passengers, was travelling below the speed limit at 85mph when it derailed, skidded and slammed into the station platform in the small town outside the capital. It was 20 minutes into a scheduled three-hour trip to Limoges in central France.
The crane, sent from northern France, towered over the small buildings that surround the railway station. A smaller crane initially removed benches, street lamps and other urban furnishings to make place for the larger crane outside the station.
The operation is an "extraordinarily difficult technique given that we are in a train station", Mr Pepy said. "For the moment, we don't know how long it could take." He said the operation could last throughout Sunday, which is the July 14 Bastille Day holiday, and into Monday, stressing the crane's operators will be careful and slow in lifting the carriages.
Mr Pepy said investigators found that a 10kg piece of metal he compared to a staple between two rails in a switching system, which guides trains from one track to another, seemed to have "detached itself from the rails, lifted and constituted the initial cause of the derailment". Investigators were looking into how this happened since another train had travelled safely through the station about 30 minutes before. In addition, they are trying to determine why the train's third carriage was the first to derail.