The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on June 5, 1998 · Page 19
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 19

Salina, Kansas
Issue Date:
Friday, June 5, 1998
Page 19
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THE SALINA JOURNAL WORLD >98 CB Germany pulls trains out of service Broken wheel and damaged track are focus of investigation into deadly high-speed crash By ALAN COWELL The New York Times ESCHEDE, Germany — One day after Germany's worst rail crash in more than 50 years, authorities pulled scores of express trains out of service Thursday after the discovery of a broken wheel and track damage possibly linked to the disaster. The withdrawal of 60 Inter City Express trains was a humiliating step for the federal railroad service and deepened speculation that the accident, in which at least 93 people are known to have died, was caused by mechanical failure in a train once praised as the safest in Germany. "Every relevant part of these trains will be examined to exclude all risks," said Martin Katz, a spokesman for German Railways. The company has 104 high-speed Inter City Express trains, Katz said, and has withdrawn trains from the first generation, which was introduced in 1991. Authorities have yet to say what caused the crash at 10:59 a.m. Wednesday when Inter City Express 884, on its way to Hamburg, hit a road overpass at 125 miles an hour, bringing tons of concrete crashing down on it. Thursday evening officials reported a series of findings that gave a first impression of the possible cause. Police said damage to the tracks and debris of a train, not necessarily Inter City 884, had been found three and a half miles south of the overpass, meaning that 884 might have begun to derail well before it hit the bridge, its momentum carrying the cars forward until they struck the overpass. That version was apparently reinforced by the account of a survivor from the train. "There was a funny noise about two minutes before the crash," the survivor, Wolf- Ruediger Schliebener, said. "People looked frightened, and we looked at each other as if to say, 'Should we take it seriously?' But then the train went on quite normally without braking. I was writing at a table. Then it started again, and I held on tight." Other survivors said they had heard a loud noise before the "I flew through the air and smashed into everything. That's all I know" Susanne Klelnbrahms survivor crash. "There was some kind of loud noise, then a bang," one survivor, Susanne Kleinbrahms, told Reuters television. "I flew through the air and smashed into everything. That's all I know." Transport Minister Matthias Wissmann discussed the possibility that a wheel on the car directly behind the locomotive had broken and that "this may have been of significance." It was unclear whether a broken wheel caused the track damage or vice-versa. Officials said Wednesday that the locomotive had separated from the rest of the cars, speeding alone and unscathed until an automatic braking system halted it 2,000 yards beyond the overpass. The picture emerging suggests that the train partly derailed when approaching the overpass and that its middle- section slammed into the central supporting pillar of the bridge with an impact that decoupled the lead locomotive. The head of German Railways, Johannes Ludewig, said Thursday night that because there "may have been a problem" with the chassis and rolling gear, the first-generation trains "will go into the workshop and will not leave the workshop until we have found out if there is a problem." He said the second-generation trains, introduced in 1994, had different rolling gear and would not be withdrawn. German Railways had earlier imposed a 100-mph limit on the trains remaining in service. The express trains routinely travel at 125 mph and are capable of speeds of up to 175 mph, part of a network of express trains in Europe at the core of a projected high-speed transit system. Officials who are investigat- The Associated Press Rescue workers use a crane Thursday to lift a damaged train car during a search for victims. Chunks of a collapsed overpass had to be lifted off crushed train cars. ing the crash have declined to comment on the theories about causes, saying they need first to uncover the last cars from the debris. Initial reports from police and rail officials said two groups of schoolchildren might have been among the dead. But as the rescue effort unfolded Thursday officials said that they had found nothing to substantiate those fears. More than 30 hours after the wreck, rescue teams in orange coveralls tried to enter the last of the 13 cars. Rescuers said they expected to find bodies but no additional survivors. Huge cranes dug up concrete slabs that fell on the train. Power drills worked to clear out the last flattened cars, and rescuers lowered pallets on chains to retrieve bodies in gray blankets. "We are hearing no sounds of life from the wreckage," said Rolf Bartsch, a rescue worker in Eschede. "Any hope for survivors is fading." The crash left Eschede and the nation shaken. Tiny town grieves strangers who died there Trains were so widely used that many identify with victims By DENIS STAUNTON The Guardian ESCHEDE, Germany — The people of Eschede gathered Thursday night in their local church to remember people they had never met and to mourn those whose names they do not yet know. The tragedy that hit this small town on Wednesday is all the more difficult to grasp because its victims met their deaths quite by chance in a place few had heard of. Relatives of the dead and injured started arriving Thursday, but many victims remain to be identified. Trains don't carry passenger lists and few of those traveling between Hanover and Hamburg had made reservations. "It was mid-morning in the middle of the week, so there was no need to reserve a seat. The Associated Press Flowers and a written poem are seen at Munich's main railway station Thursday, In memory of Wednesday's crash victims. Unfortunately, this makes it hard for us to work out exactly who was on the train," said Jorg Haslinger, who is leading the rescue work of the federal border guard. Most of the rescue effort Thursday focused on freeing the last two carriages trapped under rubble. Reports that they were carrying two parties of schoolchildren appeared to be unfounded, but the carriages, one a dining car, bore most of the impact of the crash and were crushed to 15 percent of their size. "The people crushed inside there will be very difficult to identify because many of them may only be parts of people," Haslinger said. The carriages were still trapped beneath the concrete bridge when German President Roman Herzog and Chancellor Helmut Kohl arrived Thursday. The plush blue seats and personal entertainment consoles that were a key feature of the Inter City Express were poking out of shattered windows. The mood in Eschede was subdued, with locals speaking in hushed tones out of respect for the victims of the crash. Joachim Gries was back at the scene of the disaster Thursday after a couple of hours sleep. He had rushed there from his house on Wednesday when he heard a loud thump. "There was a great cloud of dust over the scene, and it took a minute or two to make out the pieces of luggage and clothing lying around. I heard cries and moans and went to help a woman I saw lying there. The man beside her was completely still, and next to him was a child," he said. Gries and other volunteers can seek counseling from 50 pastors who arrived in Eschede Thursday. Ordinary Germans have been gripped by the catastrophe, with viewing figures for the evening news reports on Wednesday evening exceeding the record set by coverage of Princess Diana's death. Many have spoken of feeling close to the anonymous passengers on the train. Gries said his most enduring memory of the rescue effort was trying to keep the injured alive as he carried them from the wreckage and up the bank next to the track. "I just kept talking to them. You don't want someone to die in your arms. So I just said anything I could think of," he said. "All they ever said was, 'I want to get out of here, I want to get out.' " Germans uestion their love of speed From highways with no speed limit to trains, country lives fast life By IAN TRAYNOR The Guardian BONN, Germany — Germans are addicted to the fast life. Mercedes, BMWs and Audis scream up the outside lane of the autobahn, headlights glaring to clear more timid spirits from their turbocharged path. The country's highways are unique in Europe in having no speed limits, which the German driver regards as an inalienable birthright. Cheap charters combined with traditional wanderlust put Germans at the top of the travelers' league in the age of mass tourism. And seven years of air- conditioned luxury aboard the new generation of high-speed trains have led to a rail revival as hours are shaved from traveling times. But, with flags at half-mast Thursday for the victims of the Eschede rail disaster, the high- pressure, high-speed culture of modern Germany shuddered to a gruesome, if temporary, halt. For years, the German railway's 104 sleek Inter City Expresses — replete with phones, videos, restaurants and children's play areas — have been carrying 65,000 people a day across the country at high speed in soundproof carriages. They are successful and popular and, until Wednesday, were considered safe. The ICE trains are running faster and faster. The current top speed of 175 mph will be bettered next year when 43 upgraded trains, which run 30 percent faster and bend like motorbikes into the curves, come into service. By early next century, the magnetically levitated Tran- srapid train will hover above the ground between Hamburg and Berlin at 280 mph, cutting the three-hour trip to 55 minutes. The pressure to go faster is unremitting, driven by consumer demand, the national railway's survival strategy and strong competition from the air and car industries. "In our modern societies and in our integrated Europe, we want to get from one metropolis to another as quickly as possible," said Frank Weingarten of Traffic Forum, a Bonn lobbying group for the transport industries. "It's speed that matters. This is increasingly impossible by car because of congestion." But the torsos and limbs being dragged from the Eschede rubble give many pause for thought. "We don't yet know the cause of this terrible accident," Weingarten said, "but whatever, it's an absolute catastrophe for the German railways." If speed is the drug, the junkies, of course, are not confined to Germany. "It is true that the autobahn with its lack of speed limits, or merely recommended speed limits, is unique to Germany," said Eckhart Dyckerhoff, a traffic safety analyst in Munich. "But all our societies are demanding shorter traveling times. Of course, the higher the speed, the higher the risk." T NUCLEAR TESTS 5 urge halt to nuclear tests Long-standing nuclear powers urge Pakistan, India to resolve disputes By The Associated Press GENEVA — The world's five longstanding nuclear powers urged India and Pakistan on Thursday to step back from the brink of a nuclear arms race by keeping their bombs and missiles in storage and coming to the bargaining table to resolve decades- old disputes. The five also rejected conferring permanent membership in the "nuclear club" upon India and Pakistan, saying that to do so would encourage other nations to defy global arms reduction efforts. "It is not possible ... that the countries concerned will immediately change their attitudes," said Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Ji- axuan, who chaired the meeting. He said India and Pakistan must take the lead in solving their own differences. And in a pointed reference to India's role in setting off the exchange of nuclear tests, Tang said, "It is up to the one who tied the knot to untie it." Said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, "This was not a one-shot deal. We have no illusions that we will succeed overnight." A joint communique approved by foreign ministers from the United States, Russia", China, France and Britain contained neither incentives nor sanctions geared to pressure the two arch-rivals. Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said "sanctions are counterproductive; they have the biggest impact on the common people," not on leaders. The document was also silent on what the five powers would do if India and Pakistan conduct further nuclear tests. Albright said without elaboration, "There are other ways that the international community can deal with this." T UNIVERSE Mystery to universe might be solved By The Associated Press TOKYO — In a revolutionary finding that may change fundamental theories about the past and future of the universe, physicists announced Friday they have evidence that the neutrino — an elusive, subatomic particle — has mass, or weight. If proven correct, the discovery in an underground lab in central Japan by an international team of scientists would force a revision of a central theory of modern science and help solve the mystery of why the universe isn't as heavy as science says it should be. Neutrinos are one of the basic building blocks of atoms and, in turn, everything else. They are also particularly elusive. Neutrinos have no charge and are so small that they pass right through matter, making them very tricky to track. Physics' "standard model" theory of how fundamental particles work decrees that neutrinos should weigh nothing at all. A team of 120 scientists working on a project known as the Su- per-Kamiokande Experiment, believe they have found evidence that proves that part of the theory needs to be reconsidered. While they can't measure a neutrino's mass, they have evidence that strongly suggests it has some. "This is something that physi-S cists have hoped for and eagerly" sought for decades," said John., Bahcall, an astrophysicist at the Institute for Advanced Study and a visiting professor at Princeton University. "It is a huge step forward." Neutrinos come in three types — physicists call them flavors — named according to what other ' subatomic particles they hang,, around with. There are electron- neutrinos, muon-neutrinos, and" tau-neutrinos. The scientists in Japan say;7 they have detected that some neu- ' trinos oscillate, or change type, ' as they pass through space or matter.

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