Rescue workers sorted through the wreckage of a high-speed Russian train to search for more victims Saturday while investigators considered whether the derailment that killed at least 26 people was caused by a bomb on the tracks.
The Nevsky Express, an upscale line popular with Russian business executives and government officials, was carrying hundreds of passengers from Moscow to the northern city of St. Petersburg when its last three carriages went off the rails Friday night.
Authorities said Saturday they have opened a terrorism criminal inquiry. Police and prosecutors swarmed over the disaster site and restricted access to what was reported to be a possible bomb crater.
Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said at least 26 people were killed, 18 were missing and nearly 100 were injured and hospitalized in the derailment. The Prosecutor General's office said the death toll had risen to 30, with 60 others in the hospital.
President Dmitry Medvedev called for calm, saying "we need there to be no chaos, because the situation is tense as it is."
The 14-carriage train had been carrying more than 600 passengers and 20 railway personnel when the last three cars left the tracks near the border of the Novgorod and Tver provinces. The rural area is 250 miles (402 kilometers) northwest of Moscow and 150 miles (250 kilometers) southeast of St. Petersburg, The Associated Press reports.
"Our main lead is an explosion of an unknown device, in other words terrorism," Vladimir Yakunin, the head of OAO Russian Railways, the country’s railroad monopoly, told the government’s Vesti television station.
The Prosecutor General’s Office opened a probe focusing on terrorism and illegal possession of an explosive device and arms, Vesti reported, citing spokeswoman Marina Gridneva.
The Nevsky express was derailed at about 9:30 p.m. Moscow time, the emergency ministry said on its Web site.
Many more may be dead, as rescue workers are using cranes to cut through the wrecked carriages looking for trapped bodies, Russia’s emergency situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a televised video conference with President Dmitry Medvedev, Bloomberg reports.
As November 4 approaches (on this day, Russia and Belarus are to sign union programs), disputes between supporters and opponents of the integration become increasingly heated