Rescue workers sorted through the wreckage of a high-speed Russian train to search for more victims Saturday while investigators considered whether the derailment that killed at least 26 people was caused by a bomb on the tracks.
The Nevsky Express, an upscale line popular with Russian business executives and government officials, was carrying hundreds of passengers from Moscow to the northern city of St. Petersburg when its last three carriages went off the rails Friday night.
Authorities said Saturday they have opened a terrorism criminal inquiry. Police and prosecutors swarmed over the disaster site and restricted access to what was reported to be a possible bomb crater.
Witnesses told Channel One state television a bomb blast may have been the cause — which, if true, would make it Russia's deadliest terrorist strike outside the volatile North Caucasus region in years.
"It was immensely scary. I think it was an act of terrorism because there was a bang," said passenger Vitaly Rafikov. He was unhurt in the accident and helped with the rescue, hauling victims from the wreckage and lighting fires for warmth.
Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said at least 26 people were killed, 18 were missing and nearly 100 were injured and hospitalized in the derailment. The Prosecutor General's office said the death toll had risen to 30, with 60 others in the hospital.
President Dmitry Medvedev called for calm, saying "we need there to be no chaos, because the situation is tense as it is."
The 14-carriage train had been carrying more than 600 passengers and 20 railway personnel when the last three cars left the tracks near the border of the Novgorod and Tver provinces. The rural area is 250 miles (402 kilometers) northwest of Moscow and 150 miles (250 kilometers) southeast of St. Petersburg.
If terrorism is confirmed, it would not be the first time the Moscow-St. Petersburg rail line has been attacked. A 2007 derailment on the line was caused by an explosion and injured 27 people. Authorities arrested two suspects and are searching for a third — a former military officer, according to the Associated Press report.
On January 15, it was reported that the Russian government began to develop sanctions against several officials at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA)