Two Trains Collide Killing 110, Injuring 1,000
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) _ An express passenger train carrying worshipers to a religious festival crashed head-on with a mail train in central Bangladesh on Sunday, killing at least 110 people and injuring 1,000, officials said.
One senior railway official said the accident, the worst ever reported in Bangladesh, may have occurred because operators did not know how to work a newly installed signal system.
The express train, bound for the southern port city of Chittagong, and the Dhaka-bound mail train collided near the industrial town of Tongi, 30 miles north of the capital, authorities said.
Police and railway officials estimate about 2,000 people were involved in the accident but were uncertain about how many were aboard each train because people frequently stand between or ride on top of the cars.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known, and the government ordered an investigation. But the senior railway official said he suspected operators at the Dhaka and Tongi stations were unfamiliar with the signalling system installed Tuesday.
″Human failure and wrong signaling may have caused the two trains to come on the same track, leading to the collision,″ said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
About 250 army soldiers holding winter exercises nearby were dispatched to help rescue those trapped inside the wreckage and get the injured to hospitals in Dhaka.
Soldiers and rescue workers have recovered 100 bodies, according to another railway official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Officials said at least 1,000 were injured.
Communications Secretary Manzuraql Karim told reporters at the scene that only 73 bodies had been found, but government casualty figures almost always are lower than the actual count.
The two diesel locomotives crashed head-on. The impact knocked them off the rails and two coaches of each train derailed, witnesses said. Several bodies were thrown into nearby rice paddies, they said.
″Hundreds of bodies were lined up on both sides of the two shattered trains,″ said Syed Sirajul Huq, a businessman from Chittagong who suffered minor injuries in the crash.
″The cries of the injured for help and people looking desperately for their dear ones accompanying them made me cry. It was so pathetic,″ he said.
According to police and railway officials, the two trains crashed near Pubail Railway Station. The passenger train was traveling at about 50 mph, while the mail train was coming to a halt, they said.
″There was a big bang,″ said Huq
President Hussain Mohammad Ershad and other top railway and government officials went to the accident scene to supervise the rescue operation.
Most of the injured were treated at the scene. At least 200 were taken to Dhaka hospitals, where 10 people later died, Hussain said. About half those treated were admitted, most in critical condition, he said.
The accident occurred on the second day of a three-day religious gathering at Tongi, attended by hundreds of thousands of Moslems from 42 countries. The event - the Biswa Ejtema or World Congregation - is the Islamic world’s second largest gathering after the Haj in Mecca.
Prior to Sunday, the worst train crash in Bangladesh occurred in 1981 near the northern district of Chuadanga, killing at least 81 passengers.
According to government statistics, at least 2,537 train accidents have occurred in Bangladesh in the past 15 years, killing more than 800 people and injuring more than 7,000.