By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A passenger train partially derailed in eastern Iran early Wednesday, killing at least 17 people and injuring 50 others, including some seriously, authorities said.
According to the report, the death toll could rise, although initial details remained unclear about the disaster involving a train that was reportedly carrying about 350 passengers.
Four of the train’s seven cars derailed in the early morning darkness near the desert city of Tabas, Iranian state television reported. Tabas is around 550 kilometers southeast of the capital Tehran.
Rescue teams using ambulances and helicopters had arrived in the remote area where communications are poor. More than a dozen people suffered serious injuries, some of whom were taken to local hospitals, officials said.
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Iranian media quoted Tabas Governor Ali Akbar Rahimi as saying at least 17 people were killed in the crash and the death toll could rise if rescue workers search the train cars.
Aerial photos of the desert terrain of the disaster showed railroad cars on their side while some rescuers at the scene ran as they tried to tend to the injured.
State television later broadcast images from a hospital where the injured were being treated. One of the injured told the broadcaster they felt the train suddenly brake before derailing and then slow.
“Passengers bounced in the car like balls in the air,” said the injured passenger, who state television did not identify.
The derailment happened about 50 kilometers (30 miles) outside of Tabas on the rail linking the city with downtown Yazd.
According to the report, the crash is under investigation. According to initial reports, the train collided with an excavator near the track, although it was not immediately clear why an excavator should have been near the track at night. An official suggests it may have been part of a repair project.
The worst train disaster in Iran occurred in 2004 when a runaway train loaded with gasoline, fertilizer, sulfur and cotton crashed near the historic town of Neyshabur, killing about 320 people, injuring 460 others and damaging five villages. Another train crash in 2016 killed and injured dozens of people.
Iran has around 14,000 kilometers (8,700 miles) of railroad lines across a country about two and a half times the size of Texas. Its rail system carries both people and goods across the country, particularly to rural areas.
Iran also has around 17,000 deaths annually on its highways, one of the worst road safety records in the world. The high toll is attributed to widespread disregard for traffic rules, unsafe vehicles and inadequate rescue services.
Iran, already suffering from US sanctions over its failed nuclear deal, mourns the deaths of at least 41 people killed in a building collapse in the south-west of the country.
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