Disaster avoided as Swiss Alps train derails
JOHN HEILPRIN AND GEIR MOULSON
Three train cars derailed and 11 people were injured as a landslide hit a mountain train in the Swiss Alps, police said.
One carriage slid down a steep slope, saved from a ravine only by large trees.
The accident occurred in a deep wooded valley between Tiefencastel and Solis, southeast of Zurich in the canton (state) of Graubuenden overnight (NZ time). Police said about 140 people were on board at the time of the accident, about lunchtime. The landslide followed heavy rains over the last day.
Five people were seriously injured and another six sustained slight injuries, Graubuenden police spokeswoman Anita Senti said. They included eight Swiss, two Japanese citizens and one Australian, police said.
The train had set off from the ski resort of St Moritz heading north toward Chur, Graubuenden's administrative capital.
Police initially said the train ran into a landslide on the track, but later revised their comments to say a landslide hit the train as it traveled between two tunnels along the side of a valley. One train car slid about 10 metres down the slope before being stopped by the trees.
Air rescue helicopters helped with the recovery effort since the crash site was not near a road. By mid-afternoon, everyone had been evacuated, with uninjured passengers taken to Tiefencastel and put on buses.
The train is operated by Rhaetische Bahn, which runs narrow-gauge routes in Switzerland's mountainous southeastern corner that are popular with tourists. The line is expected to remain closed for two days.
Switzerland's rail system is considered among the safest and most efficient in the world, despite the country's challenging terrain.
Accidents are rare, although in 2010 the popular Glacier Express tourist train derailed in the Alps in southern Switzerland, killing one person and injuring 42 others.