Belgium investigates train crash that killed 18

The Eurostar and Thalys high speed trains from London and Paris to Brussels were suspended for a second day Tuesday after a train collision outside the Belgian capital that killed 18 people.

Rescuers resume search for survivors

The wreckage of two commuter trains is seen in Buizingen, Belgium, on Monday. Investigators have yet to determine what caused two trains to collide Monday, killing at least 18 people. ((Yves Logghe/Associated Press))

The Eurostar and Thalys high speed trains from London and Paris to Brussels were suspended for a second day Tuesday after a train collision outside the Belgian capital that killed 18 people.

Train drivers also held a wildcat strike that paralyzed train travel across southern Belgium.

Rescue workers picked through the wreckage of the two commuter trains that collided on Monday in one of the deadliest rail accidents in Belgian history. In addition to the deaths, provincial officials said 171 people were injured, some seriously.

One of the train drivers has survived the crash with serious injuries, Belgian railway officials said Tuesday.

National Railways spokesman Jochen Goovaerts said investigators will examine the black boxes of the two trains to try to determine whether mechanical failure, human error, freezing weather or another factor was primarily responsible for the crash near a suburban station 15 kilometres south of Brussels.

The black boxes, recording all the technical data of the journeys, should reveal how fast the trains were moving when they collided, said Goovaerts.

"There are a lot of possible explanations to this tragedy," he told The Associated Press. "We don't want to put the blame where it doesn't belong."

Cause investigated

The accident scene was sealed off Tuesday with police tape. One passenger car from each train was tipped onto its side, and it was unknown whether more bodies were trapped underneath.

Lodewijk De Witte, the governor of the province of Flemish Brabant, told reporters Monday that one train apparently did not heed a red signal as the second train — leaving 10 minutes late from the station at Buizingen — moved onto the track of the oncoming train.

Goovaerts said the surviving driver was on train approaching the station.

Infrabel, the rail management company, said its technical teams would need three days to inspect six rail lines once the wreckage is removed, meaning train traffic in Brussels was likely to remain disrupted for the rest of the week.

Workers outraged

Meanwhile, a wildcat strike by about half of Belgium's train drivers paralyzed much of the traffic in the southern part of the country and caused cancellations and delays in the north.

"It was an emotional reaction to the catastrophe of yesterday," Goovaerts said. Many of the railway employees were outraged at accusations blaming one of the drivers for the accident before an investigation can be concluded, he said.

Infrabel called for the installation of automatic braking systems on all trains. Officials said these would have prevented the accident by immediately activating the brakes on the train that ran the red light at the entrance to the station.