TEHRAN, Iran – A passenger train partially derailed in eastern Iran early Wednesday morning, killing at least 17 people and injuring 50 others, some of whom were in critical condition, authorities said.
The report stated that the number of casualties may rise, although initial details about the disaster related to a train carrying 350 passengers are still unclear.
Iranian state television reported that four of the seven cars on the train derailed in the early morning near the desert city of Tapas. Tapas is located about 340 miles southeast of the capital, Tehran.
Rescue teams with ambulances and helicopters have reached the remote area where communications are poor. Officials said more than a dozen people were seriously injured, some of whom were taken to local hospitals.
Iranian media quoted Tabas Governor Ali Akbar Rahimi as saying that the plane crash had killed at least 17 people and that the death toll could rise as rescuers searched the train carriages.
Aerial footage of the desert site of the disaster showed train cars on their side, and some rescuers were jogging at the scene trying to care for the injured.
State television later broadcast pictures from a hospital where the wounded were treated. One of the injured told the announcer that they felt the train suddenly break and then slow down before derailing.
“The passengers were jumping in the car like balls in the air,” said the injured passenger, who was not identified by state television.
The derailment occurred about 30 miles outside of Tapas on the railway connecting the city to the central city of Yazd.
The report stated that the incident is under investigation. Initial reports indicated that the train hit an excavator near the track, although it was not immediately clear why the excavator approached the track at night. One official suggests it may have been part of a reform project.
Iran’s worst train disaster came in 2004, when a runaway train loaded with gasoline, fertilizer, sulfur and cotton crashed near the historic city of Nishapur, killing about 320 people, injuring 460 and damaging five villages. Another train accident in 2016 killed dozens and injured dozens.
Iran has about 8,700 miles of railroad tracks across a country two and a half times the size of Texas. Its rail system sends people and goods across the country, particularly in rural areas.
Iran also has about 17,000 deaths annually on its highways, one of the worst traffic safety records in the world. The high losses are attributed to widespread disregard for traffic laws, unsafe vehicles and inadequate emergency services.
Iran, already reeling from US sanctions over its collapsed nuclear deal, mourns the deaths of at least 41 people in a building collapse in the country’s southwest.
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