Today marks the tenth anniversary of the rail disaster at Buizingen in Flemish Brabant, when two trains collided, killing 19 people and injuring 310.
The accident took place at 08.28 on a Monday morning, when a stop train riding from Leuven to Halle ran into an intercity train travelling in the opposite direction on the same track from Quiévrain to Liege, close to Buizingen station.
Emergency services were on the scene rapidly, but their work was hampered by the cold and snow on the tracks.
Today’s ceremony will see Lodewijk De Witte, governor of Flemish Brabant, lay a commemorative wreath at the scene, together with his Hainaut counterpart Tommy Leclercq and Marc Snoeckx, mayor of Halle.
The ceremony will also be attended by survivors and relatives of the dead, as well as representatives of the emergency services who took part in the rescue operation.
Earlier this week, the VRT spoke to Rudy Dewinter of the Halle fire service, who was one of the first to arrive on the scene.
“The thing that stays with me the most is the ringing of mobile phones in the wrecked train carriages,” he said. “All of them the phones of people who were hoping for an answer from a missing family member.
“I was on call that day. We got a call about an accident with a train, one of the carriages had overturned. That’s all we knew. But when we arrived we saw right away how enormous the damage was. Pylons carrying cables were brought down, carriages derailed.”
He borrowed the baton from a police officer and used it to break the window of one of the derailed carriages. “I managed to crawl inside. I immediately saw the wounded, some with slight injuries, others badly hurt. It took hours for those people to be evacuated.”
The Halle-Vilvoorde prosecutor’s office carried out an investigation, and last December a court concluded the driver of the stop train had contributed to the cause of the accident, and that both the rail authority SNCB and the rail infrastructure company Infrabel were also responsible.
The SNCB was fined €550,000, as was Infrabel, although half of that sum was suspended in their case.
Infrabel decided to appeal, arguing that the conclusions in the verdict of the court called into question the very functioning of the rail system.
The prosecution is also appealing the sentences in the case of Infrabel, which it considers should be punished at least as heavily as the SNCB.