At least 17 people have been killed and more than 50 injured in a horrific train accident in Iran.
The passenger train carrying about 350 people collided with an excavator near the northeastern Iranian city of Tabas on Wednesday, with paramedics warning the death toll is likely to rise.
Four of the train’s seven carriages derailed early in the morning as the train ran between the cities of Mashhad and Yazd.
It took rescue teams some time to reach the crash site, about 340 miles southeast of the Iranian capital Tehran, 30 miles outside Tabas.
Regional Governor Ali Akbar Rahimi said the number of fatalities is likely to increase as rescuers search the train cars.
Aerial footage of the desert site of the disaster showed train cars on their side, with rescue teams trying to care for the injured.
Iranian state television later broadcast images from a hospital showing injured people being treated.
One of the injured told the reporter that they felt the train suddenly break and slow down before it derailed.
They also said passengers in the carriage bounced around “like balls in the air”.
The exact cause of the crash is still under investigation.
While initial reports suggested the train collided with an excavator close to the track, it’s not clear why such a vehicle would have been so close to the track overnight.
An official suggested it may have been part of a repair project.
Iran’s worst train disaster ever occurred in 2004 when a runaway freight train loaded with gasoline, dung, sulfur and cotton crashed near the historic city of Neyshabur.
About 320 people were killed and 460 others were injured, while five villages were damaged.
Another crash in 2016 killed dozens and injured more.
It comes just weeks after 41 people were killed in a high-rise building collapse in southwestern Iran’s Abadan.
The building’s collapse — and the regime’s response — sparked furious protests across the country, in one case prompting Iranian state television to drastically cut the feed after an official was booed by crowds during a speech.