At least five people have lost their lives and nearly 30 others have been injured after a derailed tanker train, transporting highly-flammable gas, exploded and decimated a village in northeastern Bulgaria.
The deadly incident occurred when two tanker carriages of a freight train, full of propane-butane and propylene, derailed at the station of Hitrino village, in Shumen province, some 380 kilometers (236 miles) northeast of the capital, Sofia, hit nearby electric lines and blew up at 5:40 a.m. local time on Saturday.
The train, transporting 20 tankers of propylene gas and four tankers of propane-butane, was traveling from the Bulgarian Black Sea port city of Burgas to the Danube city of Ruse.
The huge twin explosions smashed at least 50 houses and public buildings of the village instantly, leaving people under the ruins, and forced all other horrified residents of the village, some 800 people, to evacuate the area later in the day as a precautionary measure.
Search and rescue teams have already deployed to the site, trying to reach the possible survivors trapped under a vast area of rubble. Emergency teams also began a high-risk operation to reload the combustible substances.
Furthermore, some 200 firefighters arrived in the area to extinguish the raging fire and to cool the stranded tanks to avoid further explosions.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, who arrived at the blast site hours later, urged the people across the region to donate blood to meet shortages at nearby hospitals. "There will be more casualties," he told reporters, adding that several of the wounded sustained 90-percent burns and that damage from the blast had been extensive.
It is not clear yet what caused the derailment but the surviving engine driver has been questioned and an investigation has been opened into the tragic incident. According to the head of the parliamentary commission, Nastimir Ananiev, possible high speed or malfunctioning of the train tanks are among the most likely causes of the incident.
Sofia declared Monday a national day of mourning for the victims of the explosion.