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31 Aug 2007 15:55
At least eight people were killed and more than 100 injured when a packed passenger train ploughed into a slow-moving train on Thursday in a northern suburb of Rio de Janeiro. Officials said the death toll could go higher.
“It is a tragedy,” said fire department chief Pedro Marcos, confirming that eight bodies had so far been recovered.
Rio de Janeiro state health secretary Luiz Cortes said 111 injured people had been hospitalised, 12 of them in a serious condition.
The first train, carrying about 750 passengers, was travelling at 80km/h when it smashed into the slower train with four empty carriages that was changing tracks near Austin station in the city’s Nova Iguacu neighbourhood.
“It was horrible,” said passenger Robson Mendes.
“Those travelling in the first carriage were seriously injured.
The passenger train had left Rio’s central train station at 3.10pm. The crash occurred one hour later and three stops away from its final destination in Japeri.
The driver was among the injured, while his colleague on the empty train came away unhurt.
About 60 firefighters were in action at the scene and the injured were taken to area hospitals. Police threw a cordon around the crash site to prevent onlookers from hindering the rescue operation.
Rescuers said they had cleared the wreckage of victims within three hours of the crash.
A local resident, Sergio Ramos, said he was alerted to the crash when the ground shook and he saw “a great cloud of dust” rising above the tracks close to his house. “I thought my house was falling down,” Ramos said. “There was a lot of noise and screaming. I ran out to try and help people, and saw a lot of blood.”
Dr Marcos de Souza, who directs Hospital da Posse in Nova Iguacu, said injuries in the train crash include “broken legs and arms, facial and abdominal abrasions”. He said psychologists were being assigned to help the victims’ relatives.
Railway workers’ union president Waldir Lemos said he planned to sue local railway managing company Supervia for “maintenance deficiencies” on both train and tracks. The railway company, in turn, announced a 10-day investigation into the crash and said it was ready to compensate all the victims.—Sapa-AFP
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