“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."
Wednesday, May 13, 2015
The Amtrak Regional 188 was traveling to New York from Washington, D.C., and carrying about 238 passengers and 5 crew members when the train derailed at around 9:30 p.m. ET
An Amtrak train bound for New York City derailed north of Philadelphia on Tuesday, killing at least five people and injuring at least 65 others.
Six were critically hurt, officials said.
The Amtrak Regional 188 was traveling to New York from Washington, D.C., and carrying about 238 passengers and 5 crew members when the train derailed at around 9:30 p.m. ET.
"It is an absolute disastrous mess," Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter told reporters after visiting the scene of the crash. "Never seen anything like this in my life." He said there were cars "completely overturned, on their side, ripped apart."
The front of the train was going into a turn when it shook, witnesses said. Two sources told NBC News the train went off the track at a point where a 70 mph stretch goes into a 50 mph curve, but they cautioned it is too early to know whether the curve or speed were factors.
Janelle Richards, an "NBC Nightly News" producer, was on the train and said all of a sudden she heard a loud crash and people flew up in the air. There was a lot of smoke as passengers began trying to get out of the car — a man was able to force a door open in the rear just enough to get out, she said.
Police swarming the Port Richmond area where the crash occurred were telling people to get back. There was a fear that the train car may tip over or that the tracks might still be dangerous, Richards said.
"Everyone was moving as far away from that train as they could as more and more people were filing out," she said.
Port Richmond is one of five neighborhoods in what's known as Philadelphia's River Wards, dense rowhouse neighborhoods located off the Delaware River.
Area resident David Hernandez, whose home is close to the tracks, heard the derailment. "It sounded like a bunch of shopping carts crashing into each other," he said. The crunching sound lasted a few seconds, he said, and then there was chaos and screaming.
Firefighters called out a four-alarm response to the "mass-casualty event," and hundreds of firefighters and police officers responded to the scene. Several people were trapped in train cars and had to be freed with hydraulic tools, Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Commissioner Jesse Wilson said.
"I've never seen anything so devastating. They're in pretty bad shape," Wilson said of the train cars.
"You can see that they've completely, completely derailed from the track," he added. "They've been destroyed completely. The aluminum shell has been destroyed, and they've been overturned completely. It is a devastating scene."
The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Railroad Administration said it is sending teams to the crash site.
The investigation is in its early stages, but there is nothing to suggest the derailment was anything other than an accident at this time, according to a NTSB spokeswoman.
Amtrak said anyone with loved ones who may have been on the train can call 1-800-523-9101 for information. Amtrak said in a statement that "we are deeply saddened by the loss of life."
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said the state would assist in any way it can. "Anything the state can do to help, we stand ready to do that," he said.
Patrick Murphy, the Philadelphia region's former representative in Congress, was on the train and said was helping people. He was tweeting photos of firefighters helping people in the wreckage. "Pray for those injured," he said.