A packed train slammed into the end of the line in Buenos Aires’ busy Once station Wednesday, killing 49 people and injuring hundreds of morning commuters in Argentina’s worst train accident in decades.
Federal Police Commissioner Nestor Rodriguez says the dead include 48 adults and one child.
That makes it Argentina’s worst train accident since Feb. 1, 1970, when 200 a train smashed into another at full speed in suburban Buenos Aires, killing 200 people.
At least 550 people were injured, and emergency workers were slowly extracting dozens of people who were trapped inside the first car, said Alberto Crescenti, the city’s emergency medical director. Rescuers carved open the roof and set up a pulley system to ease them out one by one.
The commuter train came in too fast and hit the barrier at the end of the platform at 26 kmph, smashing the front of the engine and crunching the leading cars behind it; one car penetrated nearly 20 feet into the next, Argentina’s transportation secretary, J.P. Schiavi told reporters at the station.
The conductors’ union chief, Omar Maturano, told Radio 10 that the train might have come in as fast as 30 kmph.
Most damaged was the first car, where passengers make space for bicycles. Survivors told the TeleNoticias channel that many people were injured in a jumble of metal and glass.
Passengers said windows exploded as the tops of train cars separated from their floors. The trains are usually packed with people standing between the seats, and many were thrown into each other and to the floor by the force of the hard stop.
Many people suffered bruises, and many with lesser injuries were waiting for attention on the Once station’s platforms as helicopters and more than a dozen ambulances took the most seriously injured to nearby hospitals.
There have been five serious train accidents in Argentina since December 2010; the most deadly of these happened on September 13, 2011, when a bus driver crossed the tracks in front of an oncoming train, killing 11.
“This machine left the shop yesterday and the brakes worked well. From what we know, it braked without problems at previous stations. At this point I don’t want to speculate about the causes,” Ruben Sobrero, train workers’ union chief on the Sarmiento line, told Radio La Red.
The motorman has been hospitalized and the union hasn’t been able to speak with him yet, Mr. Sobrero added.