99 hurt in Buenos Aires train accident

2013-10-19 20:00
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Buenos Aires - At least 99 people were hurt on Saturday, some seriously, in a train crash at the same Buenos Aires commuter rail stop where a deadly accident killed dozens just last year, officials said.

"Ninety-nine patients have been treated at Buenos Aires hospitals due to the accident," said local health chief Graciela Reybaud.

Argentina's security chief Sergio Berni told local television that "there are no fatalities for now" at the Once train station in Buenos Aires, where 51 people died and 700 were injured in February 2012, when a train slammed into a retaining wall.

Railway officials said Saturday's accident occurred at 07:25 (10:25 GMT) and that there had been no earlier reports of problems during the train's ride.

Officials said they could not immediately determine the cause of the accident and that the injured were rushed to about a dozen nearby hospitals via some 30 ambulances and two helicopters.

Chaos

Television footage showed various railway cars that had left the track and were on the platform after the train apparently failed to stop at the end of the line.

Passengers who emerged from the wrecked train cars described a chaotic scene of people being thrown to the floor when the train made impact. Many passengers were trapped onboard until they could be rescued by firefighters.

One witness said shaken passengers became enraged and accosted the motorman.

"People were shouting 'murderer' at him," said a man by the name of Julio who said he was a passenger in the third car.

The train seemed as if it "was having trouble braking for two stations" prior to its arrival at the Once station, Julio said, adding his fellow passengers "were getting nervous, as they remembered" last year's disaster at the same train station.

Buenos Aires has been plagued by rail accidents in recent years.

In addition to last February's deadly collision, there have been numerous incidents, including a serious collision in June of this year, when a speeding commuter train slammed into another train that had stopped between stations, killing three people and injuring more than 300.

Authorities said it was fortunate that, unlike the earlier major mishaps, Saturday's crash did not happen on a busy weekday, and that the train was only partially full.

Acts of negligence

Argentina has tried to ramp up oversight of its problem-plagued train system since last year's deadly train collision.

And, after June's deadly collision, officials put surveillance cameras in conductors' cabs.

The increased surveillance has already revealed some acts of negligence by railway personnel, officials said in July.

Transport Minister Florencio Randazzo said video images taken from the surveillance cameras showed drivers nodding off, on the phone or reading, sometimes with their hands off the controls altogether.

A driver seen struggling to keep his eyes open "has already been relieved of his duties", Randazzo said.

"He was driving a train with a thousand passengers," the transport minister said.

Read more on:    argentina

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