Two regional trains packed with students and commuters collided in Southern Italy on Tuesday, killing at least 20 people, local and Health Ministry officials have said.

The officials said that the number of injured had risen to more than 50 several hours after the accident.

It was one of the nation’s worst-ever train accidents. First responders at the site described horrific scenes.

“I’ve seen horrible, awful things,” one police officer told ANSA, the Italian news agency.

“I saw dead people and people who were calling for help and cried. They were the worst things I’ve seen in my life,” the official said.

Massimo Mazzili, mayor of the nearby town of Corato, described the scene as “catastrophic’’, adding: “it looks like a plane crash.

Giuseppe Corrado, Vice-President, Bari-Andria-Barletta, appealed to blood donors to help as emergency services treated dozens of injured.

Corrado said four people were in a critical condition.

The report said that among the injured was a toddler who was pulled from the wreckage.

The agency later said that at least one of the drivers was dead.

The two trains crashed on a single track between Corato and Andria, north of the port city of Bari.

Broadcast footage showed the front carriages of both trains completely destroyed by the collision.

Italian media reported that many passengers were still trapped in the wreckage at the crash site, which is proving difficult for rescuers to access.

The trains, both operated by private railway company Ferrotramviaria, are thought to have been carrying four carriages each.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has called for prompt investigation into the cause of the crash and expressed his condolences to the families of the victims.

“We still don’t know what the cause of the crash was,” said Transportation Minister Graziano Delrio, adding that investigation would be necessary.

Legambiente, a major Italian environmental organisation, said the problem might be because the old tracks in that region of the country had no automatic braking systems and that little money had been invested in the system.

Human error could not be ruled out. There were no reports of bad weather at the time of the crash.

Author: Cerebral Lemon