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Hundreds rescued from overheated trains in Germany

/ Source: The Associated Press

A grueling heat wave shut down the air conditioning in three high-tech trains in Germany, leaving dozens of passengers near collapse trapped in temperatures of up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, authorities said Sunday.

At least 52 people needed medical treatment and about 1,000 people had to switch trains, the national railway system, Deutsche Bahn, said.

All three modern ICE trains — whose windows do not open — were headed west from Berlin on Saturday, Deutsche Bahn spokesman Juergen Kornmann said. While two lost their air conditioning fairly close to a station and could be emptied quickly, a third heated up some distance before reaching the city of Bielefeld.

Kornmann said eight people suffering from heat exhaustion needed to be hospitalized in Bielefeld and another 44 needed medical treatment.

"We regret that some passengers suffered from health problems and even had to be taken to the hospital," Deutsche Bahn manager Ulrich Homburg said in a written statement. "We are shocked and want to apologize."

Ninety-one rescue staff called to Bielefeld station had to treat people suffering from hyperventilation, vertigo, overheating, headaches, and other symptoms, the local fire fighters said in a press release.

Among those needing treatment were 27 youths who were on their way back from a class trip to Berlin, it said. The other youths continued their journey on air-conditioned buses.

Hans-Dieter Muehlenberg, chief of a local rescue squad, was quoted by the DAPD news agency as saying temperatures inside the train approached 122 degrees Fahrenheit.

Deutsche Bahn said, the trains' problems were caused by the heat outside. Germany has gone through a severe heat wave with temperatures approaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit.