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Bulgaria gas train blast toll rises to eight

Authorities said about fifty buildings in the village of Hitrino were destroyed when containers of gas exploded.

Published: 11th December 2016 12:47 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th December 2016 11:44 PM   |  A+A-

Firefighters work at the scene after a tanker train derailed and gas tank exploded in the village of Hitrino, northeastern Bulgaria. (AP)

By AFP

SOFIA: Bulgarian authorities said on Sunday that the death toll following the derailment of a train transporting gas which then exploded close to a village has risen to eight.

The blast ripped through the northeastern village of Hitrino early Saturday morning, destroying a railway station, offices and dozens of houses, an AFP photographer saw. 

Aerial footage following the crash showed a massive plume of black smoke rising over the village and charred tankers lying scattered around the tracks by the ruined station. 

"The number of victims after the accident yesterday has now risen to eight," Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov said Sunday. Twenty-nine people were seriously injured following the blast.

Local authorities declared a state of emergency on Sunday and sealed off the devastated village as firefighters continued to douse the 12 tankers that still lay stricken on the tracks.

The freight train was hauling 20 tankers of highly-flammable propylene gas as well as four containing liquefied petroleum gas, a mixture of propane and butane. 

Hitrino's roughly 1,000 residents were all evacuated on Saturday and told that it might be several days before they will be permitted to return to their homes, many of which were destroyed by the blast.

Prosecutors visited the blast site Sunday to determine what caused the deadly accident.

"If we are guilty, we will take our responsibility," Stanko Stankov, the owner of the train's operator Bulmarket, told BNR public radio on Sunday. 

All three of the train crew, who survived the crash and the explosion, as well as a Hitrino station worker, were all questioned by authorities on Saturday. 

The government said there would be a day of national mourning on Monday and promised to pay compensation to victims' families as well as contributing to the reconstruction of the village.

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