Safety still beats the speed factor, said a fire department spokesman for the NDR in Lower Saxony on Saturday. Because at least one of the two overturned tank wagons continues to leak propane gas, there is still a risk of explosion. According to the fire brigade, pumps to suck out the gas were positioned in the afternoon. The work was supposed to start late in the evening – but there were problems.
Propane: pump first, then burn
Actually, the gas should be pumped out completely. However, according to the fire department, this project cannot be implemented. The reason for this is the position of the overturned wagons on the side, which means that a connection for pumping out is not accessible. “You can probably get about half out of the overturned wagons,” it said. The rest should then be burned “carefully and in a controlled manner”. This also affects the schedule: it could take several days for the gas to burn completely, a spokesman for the fire brigade told the NDR regional magazine “Hallo Niedersachsen”. The emergency services had estimated a maximum of 20 hours for the previously planned complete pumping out. According to the federal police, both damaged tank wagons each loaded 50 tons of gas. It can be assumed that around 250 kilograms escape every hour, it said on Friday.
Plant fire brigades bring special pumps with them
The on-site helpers are supported by three fire brigades from chemical companies in Ludwigshafen, Dormagen and Marl. The gas is to be pumped out and pumped around with two special pumps. For this purpose, Deutsche Bahn has already provided empty tank wagons at the stations in Gifhorn and Lehrte. The emergency services can work through the night for the first time. The technical relief organization illuminated the area in the forest near Leiferde with searchlights.
Recovery by crane will take “a few days”.
However, pumping out and controlled burning of the gas is only part of the outstanding clean-up work: four tank wagons filled with propane continue to block the track bed. Two of them are on the side. In addition, an empty wagon and a locomotive have to be hoisted out. It could take “a few days” for these to be transported by crane from the track, said a fire department spokesman on Saturday. So that the vehicles in question can be brought to the scene of the accident at all, the muddy dirt roads were paved along the tracks. The Deutsche Bahn had a total of 500 tons of ballast delivered with several trucks. The intact wagons of the first train were pulled out of the danger zone on Friday.
Massive damage to overhead line and track bed
Before trains can run again on the railway line, the immediate consequences of the accident must also be eliminated. The railway assumes major damage to the overhead line, control and safety technology and the track bed. The repairs can only begin when the scene of the accident has been cleared, a railway spokeswoman said on Friday. The important Berlin-Hannover railway line will therefore remain closed until at least the end of November – which is why train passengers have to expect train cancellations and delays for a correspondingly long time.
Federal police are investigating the cause of the accident
The accident happened early Thursday morning. A freight train had stopped at a signal between Leiferde and Dalldorf, a following freight train with 25 tank wagons filled with propane gas had pulled up on the train. The 45-year-old driver of the train was taken to hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the second train was reportedly unharmed apart from a slight shock. According to the federal police, it is not yet clear what caused the collision between the freight trains. The investigations ran in all directions, said a spokesman on Friday when asked. We don’t want to comment on assumptions.