Argentines need train crash answers

2012-02-23 22:36
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Argentina train accident

A packed train slammed into the end of the line in Buenos Aires' busy Once station killing dozens and injuring hundreds of commuters.

Buenos Aires - Argentine families demanded answers on Thursday, the day after a packed commuter train ploughed into a Buenos Aires terminus during rush hour, killing 50 people and injuring more than 700.

The train, carrying around 2 000 passengers, slammed into a wall at a major railway station on Wednesday morning, sending carriages crashing into each other and crushing the passengers inside.

The Inspector General, who oversees the functioning of the state railways, called for authorities to cancel the concession to the private company, Trains of Buenos Aires (TBA), which operated the train.

The top official, who audited the same suburban train line in 2008, said the accident was caused by a "lack of respect for the most basic rules".

"The situation was disastrous and the braking system was terrible [in 2008]," said Leandro Despouy. "The state authority has not taken measures since then, nor applied serious sanctions."

The head of TBA's technical department, Roque Cirigliano, rejected the accusations, telling reporters at the Once station, where the accident occurred: "This company invests even more than others."

Nearby passengers shouted "Murderers, murderers!" as he spoke.

In a statement, TBA said it did not know the cause of the crash and that it would give "all information and videos to the courts".

The train driver, aged 28, was still in hospital and could not yet be questioned, according to a union official for the line, Ruben Sobrero.

Bodies in first carriages

"We want to speak to him to make some conclusions, but his health comes first," he said.

At the morgue, victims' families desperately searched for the missing, joined by teams of psychologists from the health ministry.

One woman, Silvino Zelaya, showed a photograph of her 37-year-old sister Maria Teresa.

"She travelled in the first carriage to leave the platform as quickly as possible and we can't find her anywhere," she said.

Most bodies were found in the first and second carriages.

"My son must be somewhere, alive or dead!" cried Maria Lujan, mother to 20-year-old Lucas Menghini.

The head of the city's emergency services, Alberto Crescenti, said on local radio that there were 703 wounded, according to the latest hospital counts.

The death toll reached 50, with 11 still unidentified, authorities said.

Meanwhile passengers returned to the station, with less people occupying the front carriages of trains.

1960's rolling stock

"It's more silent. People seem shocked. I didn't sleep last night," said a 19-year-old who gave his name as Daniel.

The Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Jose Miguel Insulza, said on Thursday he was "deeply dismayed by the tragic accident" which "all Latin Americans" are mourning, as condolences poured in from around the world.

Chile meanwhile said that one of its nationals was among the deceased.

The Sarmiento rail line, owned by TBA, links the centre of Buenos Aires to a densely populated suburb 70km to the west of the city. It uses rolling stock made in Japan and acquired in the 1960s.

The rail network was privatised in the 1990s.

The toll from Wednesday's crash surpassed the city's last major rail disaster just five months ago, when two trains and a bus collided during rush hour, killing 11 people and injuring more than 200.

The region's transit system has been plagued with serious accidents in recent years.

Argentina's deadliest train tragedy was in 1970, an accident that killed 236 people in northern Buenos Aires.

Read more on:    argentina  |  transport

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