Families endure agonising wait for news of loved ones
Relatives of Spanish train crash victims await results of forensic examinations to confirm their worst fears
A couple embrace yesterday as they leave the temporary morgue at Multiusos Fontes do Sar Sport Center after the train crash killing at least 78 people in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Photograph: Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images
Santiago de Compostela has been reeling with grief since Wednesday night as the death toll from Spain’s worst train crash in four decades has crept up and up. But for some families, the last few days have been particularly distressing as they go through an agonising wait to find out whether their loved ones are among the victims.
The friends and relatives of victims have been gathered at a public building on the edge of the city, where the news of the deaths is broken to them following forensic examinations of the bodies.
“If there’s one thing that all the families gathered here have in common, it’s that they are absolutely exhausted. But that’s perhaps all they have in common. Every family reacts differently,” said Miguel Ángel Doallo, a Red Cross psychologist who has been counselling relatives of those killed, or who are believed to have been killed, on the train.
The counsellors have been working eight-hour shifts that Mr Doallo admitted had been extremely demanding. As he spoke yesterday, the identities of 13 victims were yet to be confirmed, a figure that dropped as the day went on.
“Psychologically, it’s very difficult for those who don’t know yet, because when you’ve been told that a loved one has passed away the grieving process can begin. But for the people who don’t know, the grieving process is on standby. They don’t have that final confirmation and that makes things tougher.”
Authorities had planned to release a full list of the deceased on Thursday, but they delayed the decision pending the identification of all the bodies.
Simone Aventura from the Dominican Republic was one of those still waiting yesterday for news about a missing friend, a 42-year-old fellow Dominican woman. She worked in Madrid and had taken the train to visit family living in Santiago de Compostela.
“It was the first time she had been to Galicia,” said Ms Aventura. “She wanted to surprise her sister and nieces and nephews but, instead, this is the surprise. It’s so sad.”
The missing woman has four children, aged between nine and 19. Ms Aventura seemed almost to accept that her friend was dead – but not quite.
“We haven’t lost hope that all those who haven’t been found will be found,” she said.
Others had been less upbeat, even when they were also still waiting to hear whether their loved ones were definitely among the victims.
The father of Tomas López (22) posted on Facebook, “My son is dead”, just hours after the crash, even though the young man’s death and that of his mother, who was also on the train, were still to be confirmed. Tomas López’s sister was injured in the crash.
The stories of many of the individuals caught up in the tragedy illustrate the cruelly random nature of the tragedy, the first of its kind on Spain’s high-speed rail network.
Manuel Suárez Rosende (57) was a Santiago businessman who frequently travelled to and from Madrid, but always by aircraft or car. Last Wednesday he changed his mind and decided to take the fast train. He was among the dead.
Another victim, Yolanda Delfín (22), a Mexican, had been studying in Santiago de Compostela for six months. She had just been on holiday with her parents and sister in Madrid and they had waved her on to the train. She had been due to fly back to Mexico on August 2nd.
Tributes were paid to the victims across the region of Galicia yesterday as it continues a week of mourning.
Workers in town halls, hospitals and other public institutions observed a minute’s silence at midday, as did the workers of some private entities, such as the Citroën car factory in Vigo.