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Video: Train slams into Argentine station killing dozens

Image: Police and rescue workers surround a train that crashed at Once train station in Buenos Aires
Juan Mabromata  /  AFP - Getty Images
Police and rescue workers surround a train that crashed at Once train station in Buenos Aires Wednesday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/22/2012 9:19:38 PM ET 2012-02-23T02:19:38

A packed train slammed into the barrier at the end of the line at a busy Buenos Aires station, killing 49 people and injuring hundreds of morning commuters in Argentina's worst train accident in decades. Passengers had been packed in tight, sandwiched between bicycles and the few seats, many without so much as a strap to hold onto.

Federal Police Commissioner Nestor Rodriguez said Wednesday's dead included 48 adults and one child.

About 600 people were injured, and emergency workers were slowly extracting 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.

Most of the victims were traveling in the first two cars of the eight-car train, which Transport Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi said was carrying between 1,200 and 1,500 passengers.

The commuter train came in too fast and hit a shock-absorbing barrier at the end of the platform at about 16 mph, smashing the front of the engine and crunching the cars behind it. The second car penetrated nearly 20 feet into the next, Schiavi said.

Commuters inside the train "flew through the air," a passenger wearing a neckbrace who identified himself as Fabio told local television. "There were lots of people thrown to the floor, injured, bloodied."

"The train (car) was embedded inside the other ... the seats were gone, they disappeared, and people were jumping out of the window," he said.

The death toll was Argentina's highest from a train accident since 1970, when 200 were killed.

Hundreds of thousands of people travel into Argentina's capital from the suburbs every day. The dilapidated and overcrowded rail services, run by private companies and heavily subsidized by the state, are plagued by accidents and delays.

Schiavi defended the rail system at a news conference.

"It was an accident like those in many other countries," he said, pointing to a newspaper clipping about a fatal crash in Los Angeles. "In recent years, we've made huge investments" in the system.

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As Schiavi spoke, riot police faced off against angry passengers in the closed station, where emergency workers spent hours extracting dozens of people trapped inside the train's first car. Rescuers had to slice open the roof and set up a pulley system to ease them out one by one. Dozens of the injured were lined up on stretchers on the station platform.

One car penetrated nearly 20 feet into the next, Schiavi told reporters at the station.

PhotoBlog: Passengers carried to safety after Buenos Aires train crash

Windows explode
Most damaged was the first car, where passengers make space for bicycles. Passengers said windows exploded as the tops of train cars separated from their floors.

The trains are usually packed with people standing between the seats, and many were thrown into each other and to the floor by the force of the hard stop.

Helicopters and more than a dozen ambulances took the most seriously injured to nearby hospitals.

PhotoBlog: Rescuers work to free survivors of September crash

"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," Ruben Sobrero, union chief on the Sarmiento line, told Radio La Red.

The train operator has been hospitalized and the union hasn't been able to speak with him yet, Sobrero added.

In September of last year , nine people were killed and more than 200 injured in a crash in Buenos Aires involving two passenger trains and a bus.

In February of last year, four people died and 120 were injured when a long distance train struck a suburban passenger train, according to the AFP news agency.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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