ROME — The authorities in Italy on Wednesday were investigating why a subway escalator in Rome suddenly sped up during rush hour and raced to the bottom, dumping riders in a crush of bodies and leaving dozens hurt, including one man with a seriously injured foot.
Footage on social media showed passengers screaming as the stairway appeared to crumple after racing down the Repubblica station in central Rome on Tuesday evening. A video showed a man on a parallel escalator dragging one person to safety, while others jumped on the dividing barrier or tried to help those trapped at the bottom.
More than 20 people were hurt, according to news reports. Some of the injuries resulted because the shattered stairs acted like sharp blades on the feet, heels, ankles and lower legs of the passengers, rescue workers said.
“I just experienced a scene from the apocalypse,” a witness told the national daily newspaper La Repubblica. “One of the steps on the downward escalator, just a meter away from me, started accelerating extremely fast like it had gone crazy.”
Many of those injured were fans of the Russian soccer team CSKA Moscow, which was playing against the Italian club Roma in the group stages of the Champions League, the authorities said. The Russian Embassy said that 16 Russians had been injured, with three in serious condition.
Rome’s transportation company, ATAC, and the prosecutor’s office have opened investigations into the cause of the accident. But Rome’s mayor, Virginia Raggi, who visited the site, said, “From some testimonies, it looks like some fans were jumping and dancing on the escalator.”
She expressed the city’s sympathy to those injured.
Transport unions and consumer associations have called for immediate checks on Rome’s metro escalators and a full investigation into the maintenance and safety of the subway system.
Rome’s transportation system has a record of perennially late buses — when they are not short-circuiting and bursting into flames. But the department said that maintenance checks on the escalators at the subway station, which is in one of the city’s busiest areas, had been done on a monthly basis.