22 Feb 2012

Scores killed in Argentine train crash

At least 49 people have been killed, and more than 600 others were injured when a packed commuter train crashed into the buffers at a Buenos Aires station.

The train was crowded with early morning commuters when it slammed into the end of the line at Once station in Buenos Aires, in the country’s worst rail accident for more than 30 years. A seven year old boy was among the dead.

Officials said the train, with 800 people on board, had come into the station too fast and hit the barrier at around 16 miles an hour. The Transport Secretary Juan Pablo Shiavi told the state news agency “We suppose there was some flaw in the brakes. This caused the train to fold up on itself.”

The impact forced the second carriage six metres into the one in front, trapping dozens of people in the wreckage. One passenger told local television “All of a sudden, we felt an explosion and we literally flew through the air … there were lots of people thrown to the floor, injured, bloodied.” Others said people standing in between the seats were hurled around by the impact, while windows shattered around them. It’s thought around 30 people are still trapped inside the first carriage.

The most seriously injured were taken to hospital by helicopter and ambulances, while others who’d been less badly hurt were left waiting on the platforms for help to arrive. Emergency workers managed to reach some of the victims after cutting the roof off one of the carriages, lifting others out through the windows. Hundreds of people rushed to the station looking for relatives who’d been on the train.

Some union leaders have already criticised the country’s run-down and overcrowded train services, run by private companies with the aid of hefty state subsidies. Trenos de Buenos Aires, which owned the train involved in today’s accident, is investigating what happened, although one union boss told local radio that the engine had been checked yesterday, and the brakes were working perfectly well.

Some 10 million passengers travel on the commuter line linking the city centre to its western suburbs, and Once station, in the heart of the Plaza Misereere, is one of the city’s main railway terminals. Today’s crash was the third in Buenos Aires in just over six months.