The Tuesday crash on the Moscow Metro has taken over 20 lives, leaving more than 160 injured. Those who survived shared their stories of the tunnel horrors in rush hour: amidst 'smashed heads' and 'broken ribs' people escaped the cars 'in tatters.'
The Moscow Metro train derailed on Tuesday morning rush hour, at 8:39am Moscow time (04:39 GMT), trapping hundreds of people underground on their way to work. A total of 1,150 people were evacuated from the site of the accident, according to press service of the Moscow Emercom branch.
"There was no connection at all. We pressed the emergency button. It did not work, probably it was broken. The train driver was silent," the 25-year-old Andrey Sazykin told Komsomolskaya Pravda (KP).
The man said he was in the second carriage from the rear. About two minutes after the train departed from Park Pobedy (Victory Park) Station in the west of Moscow, it braked so abruptly that "people fell head over heels", Andrey said.
The driver, who they immediately tried to contact by emergency connection, "has not been found yet," said head of the Health ministry Veronika Skvortsova, as cited by RIA Novosti. She added that the assistant driver is in a critical condition at a Moscow hospital.
"I flew from the carriage center to its top. Everyone fell on each other. I wasn't hit badly. There were no badly injured people in our carriage. Just a pregnant woman, she was standing, not seated [when the train was moving]. She suffered the most, many people fell on her. She could not stand up, she lay there. Everyone was mostly worried about her," the passenger told KP.
The first carriage of the train sustained most of the damage. It was torn apart, turned around and wedged in the tunnel, with the following cars crashing into it, according to eyewitness reports.
Andrey added that when people in the carriage smelled smoke, they first opened the windows "to be able to breathe." But "in a minute" there was even more smoke, making it almost impossible to breathe. People closed the windows and were trapped in the overheated carriage, but soon "the ventilation started working and there was fresh air," bringing people "relief."
"The moment [the crash] happened, everyone started to scream. We thought it was a terrorist act. But then people started to tell each other not to panic... People didn't push each other, trying to escape," the eyewitness said, adding that "everyone's gadgets flew around the carriage" after the braking, and then people helped each other find their phones.
Another survivor, Andrey Zenin, who witnessed "the train derail right in front of our carriage" also remembered how passengers on the train immediately rushed to help.
"The carriage that was across the tracks had a small fire in it and was full of smoke. We took the fire extinguishers and started to extinguish the fire. We then broke down the door into the next tunnel and some of the people who were able to move started to walk from the next carriage towards Metro workers, who led them towards the tunnel, which led upstairs. It had an elevator, but it wasn’t very big, so first of all we put the injured in the elevator," he told RT.
The man said he helped to carry out the injured on the stretchers. He saw that many people were unconscious, others had cuts. Andrey said they were able to take the first injured person up to the surface in about 30 minutes: "That happened even before the emergency workers showed up. Even when we were in the tunnel, the first rescuers ran in and asked people to volunteer to help carry the injured out towards the Park Pobedy Metro station."
He added that he witnessed a lot of badly injured people: "There was a man next to me and his head had been smashed by the handrail and he was unconscious. Some people had broken ribs and one person’s arm was injured. All in all, people were hysterical."
Another eyewitness of the accident who spoke to RT, a man named Ivan, said he was in the second car when the train suddenly braked and the lights went off.
"I think the accident happened about 15-20 seconds after the train departed from the station. I was tossed up in the air,” the young man said.
An eyewitness, who spoke to LifeNews, was in the fifth carriage and said they had to wait for 30 minutes before the evacuation started: "As we got out, we proceeded to march on foot, probably for two or three minutes - along the tunnel with cables underneath. The train driver had told us right away to stick to the right side, so we did. No sooner had we got to the surface than we realized it was a full-blown emergency.”
Maksim Shapovalov, who was in one of the next trains, told RT he and other passengers had to spend a whole hour on the train stuck in the tunnel.
Overground people were saying that men "with stretchers are constantly going down. [Injured] are brought out. Some are unconscious, some are groaning from pain," Twitter user AlexNaryshkin shared.
Пострадавших складывают. Вниз постоянно спускаются с носилками. Выносят наружу. Кто без сознания, кто стонет от боли pic.twitter.com/yZaOxZ7rtu
— Алексей Нарышкин (@AlexNaryshkin) July 15, 2014
Людей со станции Парк победы выносят на носилках pic.twitter.com/PZvs1BKCoL
— Алексей Нарышкин (@AlexNaryshkin) July 15, 2014
Alexander Zagnibeda was also on the train that crashed. He shared
his impressions of the tragedy on Facebook, saying "How many
people are left there... My carriage in tatters... Only part of
the carriage with one window was left... We got out by cable. So
many dead bodies... Unconscious. There was nowhere to go."
"I'm glad I was not unconscious. Because I could have stayed there," Zagnibeda concluded.
The chief psychiatrist of Russia's Health Ministry Zurab Kekelidze has advised eyewitnesses of the accident to seek medical help.
"It concerns those who were at the site of the accident, as well as those who watched news of it on TV and got scared," the doctor said.
Wednesday, July 16 has been announced as a day of mourning in Moscow, Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said. The city head added that it would not be possible to promptly restore the traffic on the damaged Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya line. It could take up to two days, he said. Trains will be restarted only after all investigating actions finish on the site. Special bus routes have been opened overground.