Sunday, February 25, 2018

Argentine train slams into station, killing 49

BUENOS AIRES — A train packed with morning commuters slammed into a barrier at the end of a line Wednesday, killing 49 people and injuring hundreds as passenger cars crumpled and windows exploded. It was Argentina's worst train accident in decades.

The dead include 48 adults and one child, most of whom had crowded into the first two cars to get ahead of the usual crowds on arrival. Some 600 people were injured, including 461 who were hospitalized, Argentina's transportation secretary J.P. Schiavi said.

Emergency workers slowly extracted 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 a shock-absorbing barrier at the end of the platform of Buenos Aires' Once station at about 16 mph, smashing the front of the engine and crunching the leading cars behind it; one car penetrated nearly 20 feet into the next, Schiavi said.

The conductors' union chief, Omar Maturano, told Radio 10 the train might have come in as fast as 18 mph.

The conductor, who survived the crash, is 28 and was apparently well-rested, Schiavi said.

"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," union chief Ruben Sobrero told Radio La Red.

But passengers said the conductor was evidently struggling with the brakes, missing his stopping marks at station after station.

The accident raised fresh doubts about government investment in the train system millions depend on. While largely privatized, the system depends on huge state subsidies, and passengers pay relatively little compared with other countries.

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