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Two killed in high-speed train crash in Italy

The state railway Freccia Rossa train went off the rails on the heavily used Milan-Bologna line while travelling at nearly 180mph.

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A police helicopter flies over an overturned carriage of a high-speed train which derailed in the countryside near the town of Lodi, northern Italy (Antonio Calanni/AP)

A police helicopter flies over an overturned carriage of a high-speed train which derailed in the countryside near the town of Lodi, northern Italy (Antonio Calanni/AP)

A police helicopter flies over an overturned carriage of a high-speed train which derailed in the countryside near the town of Lodi, northern Italy (Antonio Calanni/AP)

A high-speed passenger train has derailed in northern Italy, killing two railway workers and injuring 28 other people as its engine broke off and careered into a work vehicle on an adjacent track.

Authorities are looking into human error linked to track maintenance work as a possible cause.

The state railway Freccia Rossa train went off the rails on the heavily used Milan-Bologna line while travelling at nearly 300kph (180mph), Civil Protection chief Angelo Borrelli told state radio.

Maintenance work had been carried out on a nearby track switching area less than two hours before the derailment, prosecutor Domenico Chiaro told reporters at a news conference.

The scene after a train crash near the town of Lodi, northern Italy
The scene after the train crash (Luca Bruno/AP)

The train that derailed was the first train to pass through the area after the work was done and “the switch was placed in a position it shouldn’t have been”, he said.

“We’re looking into the hypothesis of human error that could be linked to the maintenance work” as a possible cause for the accident, Mr Chiaro said, stressing that no conclusions had been reached yet.

Sabotage or a terror attack have been ruled out, the prosecutor said, and investigators have recovered the train’s black box recording.

“The (engine of the) train rammed a series of obstacles” before finally stopping, Mr Chiaro said, including a nearby building used for storing railway equipment and tools.

The engine car ended its fatal trajectory flipped around 180 degrees.

State railways said the two fatalities were train engineers.

Police inspect an overturned carriage of a high-speed train after it derailed in the countryside near the town of Lodi, northern Italy
Police inspect an overturned carriage of the high-speed train (Luca Bruno/AP)

Prefect Marcello Cardona said another rail worker was seriously injured.

Among the 27 passengers hurt in the derailing, one was seriously injured, authorities said.

“The engine car kept going, hundreds of metres, at high speed,” Mr Cardona told reporters at the crash site near the town of Ospedaletto Lodigiano.

Mr Chiaro said the crash occurred at about 5.50am local time (4.50am GMT), several minutes after a scheduled stop as the train travelled from Milan south to Bologna.

Police said the train had about 30 passengers.

Only one passenger was in the first car, a business-class car, that ended up on its side.

Police walk out of a carriage of a high-speed train after it derailed in the countryside near the town of Lodi, northern Italy
The train derailed in the countryside near the town of Lodi, northern Italy (Antonio Calanni/AP)

The train passenger cars further back remained upright.

One passenger, interviewed by state TV, likened the moment of the crash to being on a rollercoaster for 20 seconds.

Authorities said it was possible that the engine car automatically decoupled from the cars behind it as part of a safety mechanism during derailments.

The passenger train run is part of a popular high-speed rail service known as Freccia Rossa, or the Red Arrow service, which links Italy’s north and south.

PA Media