TEHRAN – A passenger train partially derailed in eastern Iran early Wednesday, killing at least 17 people and injuring 50 more, including some seriously, authorities said.
Initial details about the train disaster, which reportedly carried some 350 passengers, remained unclear, but there were fears that casualties could rise.
Four of the seven cars on the train derailed in the early morning darkness near the desert city of Tabas, about 340 miles or 550 kilometers southeast of the capital Tehran, Iranian state television reported.
Rescue teams with ambulances and helicopters arrived at the crash site, in a remote area with poor communication links.
Aerial footage of the desert site of the disaster showed train cars by their side as some rescuers ran to the scene as they tried to tend to the injured. Tabas governor Ali Akbar Rahimi said through Iranian media that the death toll could rise after rescuers searched the train cars.
State television later broadcast images of a hospital where the injured were being transported for treatment. One of the injured told the broadcaster that they felt the train suddenly brake before the derailment and then slowed down.
“Passengers bounced into the car like balls in the air,” said the injured passenger, who was not identified.
The derailment occurred about 30 miles outside Tabas on the rail line connecting the city to the central city of Yazd, about 190 miles to the southwest.
Iranian media reported that the crash is under investigation. Early reports said the train had collided with an excavator near the track, although it was not immediately clear why an excavator would have been close to the track at night. An official suggested it could be part of a repair project.
Iran’s worst train disaster occurred in 2004, when a runaway train loaded with gasoline, fertilizer, sulfur and cotton crashed near the historic city of Neyshabur, killing nearly 300 people, injuring 460 others and damaging five villages. . Another train accident in 2016 killed dozens of people and injured dozens.