Australian Train Derails, Kills Nine

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- A train packed with commuters derailed during rush hour Friday morning outside Sydney, killing at least nine people and trapping others in the wreckage. All four of the train's cars lay crumpled or toppled along the tracks.

Rescue workers had to struggle on foot through more than a mile of rugged terrain before trying to extricate injured passengers from the double-decker cars in a ravine 20 miles south of downtown Sydney.

Doctors and paramedics also were lowered to the scene by winch from helicopter and others taken in by army troop carriers.

Some rescuers used rocks to smash sealed vandal-proof windows made of reinforced glass to get to passengers trapped inside.

After visiting the site, a visibly shaken New South Wales state Premier Bob Carr said nine people were confirmed dead. By mid-afternoon, passengers who had been imprisoned in the wreckage -- some for hours -- had all been freed.

Thirty-nine people were taken to the hospital, and police said 15 were seriously injured. The train's engineer was among those killed.

Stephen Leahy, a spokesman for the Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter, a helicopter emergency service likened the scene to a war movie with ``bodies just strewn around.''

The train, heading out of Sydney with about 70 people on board, was likely going about 50 mph when it jumped the rails near the village of Waterfall at about 7:30 a.m., emergency workers said.

Television images showed the front of the lead car crumpled, apparently after hitting a steel electrical pole on the side of the tracks. The next car was damaged from smashing into the first.

The two back cars were on their sides, but did not show great damage.

One survivor, 21-year-old Arnouska Zehalko, told her parents it was a scene of carnage.

``She just said there were people dead and injured everywhere,'' said Zehalko's mother Julie, who spoke to her daughter by mobile phone.

The train was traveling from Sydney to the steel works town of Port Kembla.

A major highway near the crash were closed to traffic so emergency services helicopters could land near the wreckage. At least three local hospitals put on standby to take casualties.

Police were investigating but would not speculate on what might have caused the crash. A retired judge was appointed to lead an inquiry. Authorities recovered a black box _ similar to an aircraft's flight recorder _ from the wreckage.

Some observers suggested the tracks may have buckled late Thursday during a day of soaring temperatures that reached 113 degrees. But a number of other trains traveled over the same rails earlier Friday.