44 dead as Iran trains col­lide

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

ANKARA:

Forty-four peo­ple were killed and 103 in­jured when one Ira­nian pas­sen­ger train col­lided with an­other at a sta­tion about 250 km east of the cap­i­tal Tehran, state me­dia re­ported. “I was sleep­ing when the crash hap­pened. I thought it was an air strike ... When I opened my eyes, there was blood ev­ery­where,” a hos­pi­tal­ized pas­sen­ger told state tele­vi­sion. State tele­vi­sion footage showed four de­railed car­riages, two of them on fire and a spokesman for Iran’s Red Cres­cent, Mostafa Mor­tazavi, told the semi-of­fi­cial Fars news agency that fire­fight­ers were try­ing to con­trol the blaze.

A se­nior health min­istry of­fi­cial later an­nounced via Tas­nim news agency that res­cue op­er­a­tions had been com­pleted and the fi­nal death toll was 44. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cause of the crash in the north­ern prov­ince of Sem­nan was con­tin­u­ing. Sem­nan pro­vin­cial gover­nor Mo­ham­mad Reza Khab­baz told Ira­nian tele­vi­sion it ap­peared that a train en­ter­ing the Haft-Khan sta­tion on the out­skirts of Shahroud ploughed into an­other that had bro­ken down there.

“The ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion sug­gests that a me­chan­i­cal fail­ure, pos­si­bly caused by cold weather, forced the ex­press train, op­er­at­ing be­tween the cities of Tabriz and Mash­had, to stop (at Haft-Khan),” Khab­baz said. Tabriz state gover­nor Rahim Shohrat­i­far told Tas­nim that the mov­ing train had 400 pas­sen­gers. It was not clear how many pas­sen­gers were on the sta­tion­ary train. Fars ear­lier re­ported that 100 pas­sen­gers had been res­cued. Semi-of­fi­cial Mehr news agency said four of the dead were rail­way em­ploy­ees aboard the trains.

Later in the day, Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani is­sued a state­ment of­fer­ing his con­do­lences to the victims’ fam­i­lies and as­signed se­nior vice-pres­i­dent Eshagh Janah­giri to lead an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and iden­tify those re­spon­si­ble for the in­ci­dent. Mean­while, the min­is­ter for roads and ur­ban devel­op­ment, Ab­bas Akhoundi, post­poned his visit to Turk­menistan to visit the site of the ac­ci­dent. A par­lia­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the re­gion, Gho­lam Reza Kateb, hinted that the head of the Sem­nan train sta­tion may have mis­tak­enly al­lowed the train to pro­ceed pre­ma­turely.

Iran’s rail net­work aged badly un­der eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed over its dis­puted nu­clear pro­gram, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to mod­ern­ize rolling stock, and safety stan­dards suf­fered. The sanc­tions were lifted in Jan­uary af­ter Iran reached a deal with world pow­ers to limit its nu­clear ac­tiv­ity. Ira­nian trains have been in­volved in four col­li­sions this year with road ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing a crash with a truck in July that left around 30 in­jured near the Caspian Sea in the north­ern prov­ince of Mazan­daran.

Col­li­sions be­tween trains have been rarer. In the country’s dead­li­est rail dis­as­ter, 328 peo­ple were killed when a train trans­port­ing sul­fur, petrol and fer­til­iz­ers ex­ploded in north­ern Iran on Feb 18, 2004. Iran’s roads are also no­to­ri­ously deadly, mainly be­cause driv­ers show scant re­gard for rules, with 16,000 lives lost in the Ira­nian year be­tween March 2015 and March 2016. — Agen­cies

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