Train derailment in east Iran kills at least 21, injures 47

Train derailment in east Iran kills at least 21, injures 47

Tehran: A passenger train traveling through eastern Iran struck an excavator and derailed nearly half its cars before dawn Wednesday, killing at least 21 people and injuring another 47, officials said.

The train derailment near the desert city of Tabas was the latest disaster to strike the Islamic Republic in recent weeks as Tehran struggles under US sanctions and any return to its nuclear deal with world powers remains in doubt.

The train operated by the state-run Islamic Republic Railway carried some 350 people as it traveled from Tabas, some 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Tehran, to the city of Yazd. It struck the excavator as the train traveled over a railroad underpass in the rural scrubland, sending cars and its passengers flying.

Passengers were bouncing in the car like balls in the air, one unnamed injured passenger told Iranian state television.

The state-run IRNA news agency gave the casualty figures, citing emergency officials.

Rescue teams with ambulances and helicopters arrived in the remote area where communication is poor. Over a dozen people suffered critical injuries, with some transferred to local hospitals, officials said.

Aerial footage of the desert site of the disaster showed train cars on their side, with some rescuers running at the scene as they tried to care for those injured. State TV later aired images from a hospital where the injured received treatment. One of those injured told the broadcaster they felt the train suddenly brake and then slow before the derailment.

The derailment happened some 50 kilometers (30 miles) outside of Tabas. The report said the crash is under investigation. Initial reports suggested the train collided with an excavator near the track, though it wasn't immediately clear why an excavator would have been close to the train track at night. One official suggest it could have been part of a repair project.

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi offered condolences over the crash and announced an investigation would be undertaken into its causes.

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 Neyshabur, killing some 320 people, injuring 460 others and damaging five villages.

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