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Death toll climbing as Polish trains collide head-on (VIDEO)

At least 16 dead, including 1 American woman.

Poland train disaster 04032012Enlarge
Rescuers work at the scene of a train crash in Szczekociny near Zawiercie (Silesia) in Poland today. Two passenger trains collided late Saturday, injuring more than 60 passengers. At least 16 people died. (JACEK BEDNARCZYK/AFP/Getty Images)

As many as 16 people are dead and dozens injured after two trains – travelling on the same track – collided in Poland on Saturday night.

“The rescue is difficult and complicated,” firefighter Jaroslaw Wojtasik said, Reuters reported. “The damage to the wagons is huge. We have contact with victims. We are approaching very cautiously.”

The Guardian had the death toll at 16 with 58 injured. Other reports have more than 60 hurt.

Polish authorities are calling it one of the nation’s worst train crashes in years.

The Associated Press said an American woman died, but her identity wasn't released pending notification of next of kin.

“I felt the blow,” an unnamed survivor told Polish TV, according to Reuters. “I hit the person before me. The lights went out. Everything flew. We flew over the compartment like bags. We could hear screams. We prayed.”

Although there's no word on what caused the crash, The Guardian reported that crews were performing maintenance on the tracks that day.

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The crash happened in southern Poland near the town of Szczekociny. A doctor at the scene said there are many in serious condition, including some in induced comas.  

Anna Sap, who lives near the site, said she heard a "terrible, terrible noise like a bomb going off."

"So I ran out of the house, and on one side I saw train lights and one the other side I saw train lights, and in the middle sparks," she told The Guardian. "People from the train starting crying, 'Help, help!' So we and the neighbors ran to them. Some of them smashed windows to let them out."

Andrzej Pawlowski, a board member of state railway PKP, said the train traveling south from Warsaw to Krakow was on the wrong track. The other train was headed from Przemysl to Warsaw.

“Everything indicates that this is one of the most serious railway catastrophes of recent years in our country,” Transport Minister Slawomir Nowak told a Polish TV station, according to The Guardian. “There are people who have died, there are many injured people.”

More than 500 first-response workers arrived on the scene to free trapped passengers, the Herald-Sun said.

The crews were working feverishly to reach those still inside the wreckage.

“We are trying to reach several people inside the wagons with whom we have established contact,” Wojtasik said.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk visited the scene today.

Some passengers were from Ukraine, Spain and France, although none died, Tusk said.

"This is our most tragic train disaster in many, many years," he said, according to The Guardian. "It's a very, very sad day and night in the history of Polish railways and for all of us."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/poland/120303/death-toll-climbing-2-polish-trains-collide-head