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Santiago de Compostela train tragedy: at least 77 dead

Festivities have been cancelled after the tragedy (AP Photo)

At least 77 people have been killed in a train crash near the holy city city of Santiago de Compostela on the eve of the feast of St James.

The high-speed train was traveling from Madrid to Ferrol, in Galicia, at 8.40pm last local time, when it came off the rails around a curve, apparently at twice the recommended speed.

It is the worst railway crash in Spain in at least 40 years, with more than 100 passengers also injured, 20 seriously. Although passengers heard a loud bang beforehand, government spokesman have said that all signs point it to being an accident.

Alberto Núñez Feijóo, the leader of the Galicia region, described it as a scene out of Dante.

The tragedy occured as Catholic pilgrims converged on Santiago de Compostela to celebrate the feast day of St James the Greater, the disciple of Jesus. Thousands will gather to visit the remains of the saint at the end of the the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage walk.

St James’s day festivities planned in Santiago de Compostela have been cancelled.