Using cranes and jackhammers, hundreds of workers lifted chunks of a collapsed overpass off crumpled train cars Thursday, searching for those trapped when the swiftest train on Germany's rails jumped the tracks.
At least 92 people died when the lead locomotive of the Munich-to-Hamburg InterCity Express broke loose at 125 mph Wednesday morning, leaving behind 12 passenger cars and a second locomotive that careened off the tracks and crunched together like an accordion.With few clues to the cause of the disaster, Deutsche Bahn officials ordered all InterCity Express trains to slow down to a maximum of 100 mph instead of the previous top speed of 175 mph.
Rescue workers expected to recover more bodies Thursday from a first-class car and a severed dining car still wedged beneath the ruins of the overpass.
"We think the chances of finding further survivors are very small," police spokesman Peter Hoppe said.
The four parallel tracks were strewn with stray wheels, shards of metal and other debris - much of it the result of rescuers cutting and smashing their way into the mangled hulks of train cars.
In Eschede, a red-roofed town of 6,500 that is 35 miles north of Hanover, residents brought blankets for survivors and coffee and food to exhausted rescue workers.
"How could we know that this horrible thing would happen in this beautiful place?" said Bernd Schlawer, 45.
Twenty-four hours after the accident, there were no firm estimates of how many people were on board the train, or how many survivors might have walked away from the crash.
Officials continued to give varying death tolls. Police said 90 bodies were recovered so far, two more people died in the hospital, and 95 had been treated in hospitals for serious injuries. Lower Saxony state officials earlier said 100 people were killed and 200 people were injured.
The scope of the tragedy, the worst on Germany's rails since World War II, sent the nation into mourning. Flags flew at half-staff at all public buildings Thursday and Germans rushed to donate blood.
German Chancellor Helmut Kohl cut short a trip to Italy to return home. His challenger in national elections in September, Lower Saxony state governor Gerhard Schroeder, arrived in Eschede Thursday and pledged immediate assistance to victims and their families.