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Tales of horror in Argentina train crash

23 February 2012, 13:57

Argentina - Survivors of a deadly commuter train wreck inside a Buenos Aires railroad station said the crash sent passengers flying inside the cars, sometimes even into the next train car.

Seats were torn loose from the carriage floors and panicked survivors broke windows to escape Wednesday's accordion-like wreckage.

"I heard windows burst, people screaming," a man who was in the first car told the Argentine TV channel TN. "People piled up on top of me."

Confusion followed the accident, which killed at least 49 people. Scores of injured were still fighting for their lives in hospitals in the Argentine capital while hundreds of people tried to locate their missing loved ones at hospitals.

Authorities launched an investigation into the cause of the rail accident.

The train, which reportedly had brake problems, entered Once station in central Buenos Aires at an unusually high speed of more than 20km/h, Transport Minister Juan Pablo Schiavi said.

Minor fire

It slammed into the bumper at the end of the line, and the second car in the eight-car train crushed 7m into the first.

A minor fire followed, and scores of people were trapped in the entangled wreckage.

The injured mostly suffered broken bones with many being thrown through the train by the force of the collision and crushed by falling passengers.

It took rescue teams more than four hours to free all the survivors from the wreckage with heavy equipment they used to peel away the roofs and the sides of the damaged cars.

Hours before any official confirmation of deaths, surviving passengers warned early on that they had seen bodies of victims crushed inside the train and many others covered in blood.

Trains on the Sarmiento line serving the western Buenos Aires suburbs are usually packed during rush hours with aisles full of riders standing between the seats.

50 in critical condition

As trains approach the station, passengers crowd the front cars to be among the first to get out and beat the other passengers to the connecting subway and buses.

Ambulances and helicopters descended on the station and spent hours rushing hundreds of the injured to hospitals, where up to 50 people were believed to be in critical condition. Alberto Crescenti, chief of Buenos Aires' emergency health services, warned that the death toll could rise.

Crowds gathered outside hospitals, and city officials set up counselling services at the station and hospitals. There were widespread complaints that phone lines were jammed when people tried to call hospitals to inquire about their loved ones.

Survivors reported nothing unusual about the train trip prior to the accident. The train had recently undergone an inspection and had been returned to service on Tuesday.

The train driver was alive when freed from the wreckage, and authorities hoped he might shed light on the cause of the accident. Investigators were trying to recover the train's onboard data recorder.

- SAPA

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- SAPA

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