The train accident near Santiago de Compostela, Spain, is the first derailment off a high-speed AVE track in the country. By Thursday morning, the death toll in the horrific accident had reached 80.
Minutes after the accident, neighborhood residents and passengers who had been able to exit the train mobilized to attend to victims and offer their help.
Wave of solidarity from Angrois residents
People living near the site of the crash provided blankets and water and many helping hands attended to the wounded. Moments after the crash, residents helped excavate the injured and dead from the wreckage. “You could see area residents armed with pickaxes and other tools, trying to break through windows of overturned cars,” La Voz de Galicia reports, along with photos showing citizens helping emergency responders. In addition, many residents used their cars to ferry the wounded to nearby hospitals. Others teamed up to physically push parked automobiles out of the way to make more room for ambulances and firetrucks. “We broke various items to make improvised cots,” one resident told HuffPost Spain. Abel Rivas and Ivan Ramos heard a boom from their home, and came running down to see “the train broken up into pieces.” Before emergency services arrived, the boys had already managed to free a couple of trapped people -- two men in their 30s and 60s who were dazed and disoriented and asked about their families.
The bravery of the survivors
Witnesses say that some of the passengers who were able to escape the train on their own were the first to attend to the wounded. “There were injured people rescuing children,” according to El Mundo.
Off-duty doctors and nurses returning to work
Numerous off-duty healthcare workers who found themselves in the city or surrounding areas at the time of the crash did not hesitate to return to the Clinic Hospital to offer their services to care for the many patients being taken to the ER.
Firemen calling off a strike to help
The staff of La Coruña’s fire stations had been on strike since Monday over a conflict with management. However, in the wake of the accident, the firefighters immediately decided to end their protest and offer the assistance of every company in the city to support emergency crews.
Lines to donate blood all around Galicia
The population’s response was so overwhelming that several donation centers will likely have to turn away those volunteering to donate blood for the next several days. At the same time, new donation centers have opened in Vico, La Coruña, Ourense, Ferrol, and Lugo, according to EFE. Authorities had made a public plea for citizens to donate blood. More blood will become necessary in a few days, and hospitals are still short on A-negative and O-negative.
Lines to donate blood, Spain is different.
— Alex (@Alex_nakichawi) July 24, 2013
In these moments one realizes that Spain is great. People donating blood, lining up.
— David López Ortiz (@DavidL_O) July 24, 2013
Image from @martiin_rodri of the lines at the La Coruña Hospital to donate blood
— EL PAÍS Galicia (@ELPAISGalicia) July 25, 2013
Food and shelter for the victims’ families
Hostels in the area (which host thousands of religious pilgrims each year) have also mobilized to aid families affected by the tragedy. The Hostel Association is coordinating housing and meals.
Citizens using social media to report on how to help
People have been sending updates on how and where to donate blood, posting condolences, and praising healthcare professionals. They’ve also launched a campaign asking the media not to use explicit images of the dead, out of respect for the victims and their families.
Psychological assistance for victims
“I heard about the accident and came to help,” says Alicante-based psychologist Teresa Martin who went to Galicia for the Santiago pilgrimage and offered her services as a volunteer, according to La Información. The Red Cross is mobilizing health professionals to offer specialized, targeted assistance to the victims, their families, and others affected by this emergency situation. The volunteers are doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and EMTs, all accustomed to working in complex, urgent-care contexts. The emergency unit of Spain’s Psychosocial Aid Society has previously intervened in tragedies like the March 11 bombing of Atocha Station in Madrid or the Spanair crash, and during natural disasters, like the earthquakes in Lorca, Chile, Peru, and Haiti.