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Argentina train collision kills dozens

Latest update : 2008-03-09

A train crashed into a bus at a rail crossing in Argentina early on Sunday, killing 18 people and injuring about 45 others.

A passenger train plowed into a bus packed with tourists in the eastern Argentine town of Dolores on Sunday, leaving 18 dead and 47 injured, police and hospital sources said.

The bus was on its way to Buenos Aires from the beach resort town of Mar de Ajo, 300 kilometers (186 miles) south of the capital, when it tried to pass a crossing while the barriers were down at around 2 am, officials and witnesses said.

"It was a massacre," Hector Lopez, who lives near the crash site and rushed to help the victims, told reporters. "I didn't know who to help. There were screams and I found a child with a missing leg."

Officials said the bus driver and his backup driver were placed under arrest pending an investigation.

"It's a tragedy of heartbreaking magnitude," said Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli, adding there was strong evidence that the barrier had been down.

One of the bus's passenger screamed to the driver that the barrier was down, Scioli said, citing investigators.

"It was extremely irresponsible," Scioli told reporters. "Those responsible will get the maximum punishment."

Dolores Hospital director Roberto Capiel said eight people were in critical condition.

Television images showed the white and blue bus lying on its side with part of its roof ripped off, while several train wagons were off their tracks as police scoured the scene of the tragedy.

"A loud collision could be heard, a shock and then a lot of screams," a train passenger told Todo Noticias news channel following the crash in Dolores, 212 kilometers (130 miles) south of Buenos Aires.

"It was very dark," said the passenger, who identified himself as Alejandro. "There were a lot of little kids alone and many adults injured. The barrier was down and was broken."

At least 61 people, including children, were reportedly on the bus when the crash occurred.

At least 15 people died on impact, while three others succumbed to their injuries at the hospital. Medical sources 37 of the 47 wounded remained hospitalized.

The dead included a 20-year-old woman who was struck by the bus while she waited for the train to pass on her motorbike, police said.

"The girl had finished her shift at an area restaurant when she waited in front of the lowered barriers, but she was hit by the bus," said police inspector Maximo Camarena

The crash paralyzed traffic in a provincial road heavily used during the summer tourist season.

Firefighters, police and officials from the rail firm Ferrobaires were at the scene of the accident.

Ferrobaires said Atlantic coast rail service in Buenos Aires province would be interrupted until at least Tuesday for repairs.

"The train conductors saw the bus coming," a Ferrobaires spokesman who declined to give his name told reporters. "The bus crossed when the barriers were down and the conductors could not break (in time)."

The spokesman said the crossing's security system was working.

"The barriers move automatically 800 meters (yards) before the train's passage," the spokesman said. "The alarm was ringing and the red lights were blinking."

Date created : 2008-03-09