Argentina 49 dead in railway accident

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Buenos Aires:
At least 49 people, including a child, were killed and 600 injured
Wednesday in a railway accident in Buenos Aires, Argentine officials said.

An
eight-car train entered the Once station, one of the busiest in the
capital, at 8:30 a.m. at a speed of 26 kph and slammed into the buffers.

The
train, which was heading from Moreno to Buenos Aires, was carrying between
800 and 1,000 commuters, the majority of them headed to work in the
capital.

The accident may have been caused by brake failure, but
investigators are waiting to take a statement from the train operator, who
was injured in the crash, officials said.

Transportation
Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi said the cause of the accident was unclear.

"The
train entered (the station) at the regular speed. That's the part where
the accident happens, the mystery or the responsibility. We don't know
what happened in the last 40 meters. The operator was at his post and the
train did not stop," Schiavi said.

The accident's cause has not
been determined and "investigative tasks are being conducted", Transporte
de Buenos Aires, or TBA, which operates the train service, said in a
statement.

Railway union leaders said the train involved in the
accident was a 40-year-old or 50-year-old unit, adding that Argentina's
railroad system was antiquated and lacked investment and maintenance.

Video
cameras at the station took footage of the crash, showing the second car
crushing the first and trapping dozens of people inside.

"We were
getting ready to get off because the train was slowing down and we felt a
sudden jolt and the second car looked like it was going to envelope the
first one. The people around me were mashed together," a survivor who
identified himself only as Marcelo said.

"Thank God that I can
tell the story," the survivor, who was riding in the first car, said.

"I
was standing and everybody fell down, everybody was desperate, we all
wanted to get out, but we couldn't. It was like an earthquake," a female
commuter said.

More than 100 ambulances and two helicopters took
part in the rescue operation, transporting the injured to hospitals around
the city.

Rescue teams worked for more than four hours at the
station, cutting the tops of the train cars to reach victims.

At
least 200 victims are in serious condition, officials said, adding that
most of those injured in the accident sustained bruises, fractures, cuts
and respiratory problems.

Hospitals across Buenos Aires are on
alert to treat the injured, cancelling regular services.

Hundreds
of relatives of people aboard the train are going from hospital to
hospital in search of loved ones.

"I'm searching for my brother.
He took the train today to go to work and never got to his job. We don't
know where he is," a woman told a television station.

The Buenos
Aires city government set up an information line and media outlets are
broadcasting lists of the injured to help relatives track them down.

President
Cristina Fernandez cancelled the only event she had scheduled for
Wednesday, but the government did not say whether the move was in response
to the disaster.

The accident is one of the worst involving a
train in Argentina in the past 50 years.

February has been a dark
month for Argentina's railways.

A crash involving two trains
killed 236 people in Benavidez, a city in the Buenos Aires metro area, in
February 1970.

In February 1978, 55 people died when a train
entering Buenos Aires from Tucuman province hit a truck.




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