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Seven killed, 220 injured in Philippine train collision

September 22, 1997

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Two overloaded commuter trains bound for Manila collided today after one separated from its engine and rolled backward more than a mile into the path of the other.

At least seven people were killed and 220 injured, Muntinlupa city officials said, making the crash one of the country’s worst train accidents.

Many people were crushed in a stampede as passengers tried to escape, witnesses said. They said the second train was so overcrowded that some people were riding on the roof, and were injured when they jumped off moments before the collision.

``Everybody was shouting and yelling in panic from the time our train got detached until we crashed,″ said Maria Villamin, a 44-year-old garment factory worker who was on the first train.

Reynaldo Recede, an operations officer for Philippine National Railways, said a coupler on the first train apparently failed, sending its three passenger coaches rolling backward. One coach derailed in the collision with the second train, he said.

Villamin said she felt what appeared to be a bump on the track and the train began rolling backward. When the trains collided, passengers panicked, and many were injured in the rush to get out, she said.

Witnesses said the detached coaches hit a passenger jeep and a van before smashing into the other train, and a number of people in the two vehicles were injured.

Jesus de Jesus, engineer of the second train, told reporters he tried to stop the train when the wayward coaches suddenly appeared, but it was too late.

The impact lifted one of the coaches off the tracks, causing it to tilt and scrape two shanties built close to the railway. The shanties were damaged, but no one was hurt inside.

Josie Alba, a resident of one of the shanties, said some of the bodies were thrown by the impact into her house, including one with a severed head.

``People, mostly bloodied, were falling off″ the derailed coach, she said.

Rush-hour traffic hampered the arrival of ambulances, and drivers passing near the accident site helped many of the victims, officials said.

The accident halted city and provincial train operations. Police said an investigation was under way and officials of the state-run railway might be charged with criminal negligence.

Although Philippine railroads are old and generally in poor condition, many people still ride them because of their cheap fares.

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