At least 17 dead in train derailment in central Iran

At least 17 people were killed and dozens were injured on Wednesday when a train derailed near the central Iranian city of Tabas after colliding with a bulldozer alongside the track, state media reported.

The train was heading from the northeastern city of Mashhad to the central city of Yazd with 348 passengers on board when it went off the track in the desert at 5:30 am (0100 GMT).

“Seventeen people have died and 37 of the 86 injured have been taken to hospital,” emergency services spokesman Mojtaba Khaledi told state television.

“The death toll may rise as some of the injured are in critical condition,” he said, adding that “24 ambulances and three helicopters were dispatched to the scene.”

Tabas is in South Khorasan province, approximately 900 kilometers (560 miles) by road from Tehran.

The deputy head of Iran’s state railways, Mir Hassan Moussavi, told the state broadcaster that the train was carrying 348 passengers.

“It derailed after hitting a bulldozer” that was near the track, he said.

Some of the injured were airlifted to hospital, state television footage showed.

Rescue teams inspected the overturned carriages as onlookers gathered nearby, footage released by the ISNA news agency showed.

One of the images showed a yellow bulldozer on its side next to the track.

Five of the 11 carriages of the train were derailed, Iranian Red Crescent chief of emergency operations Mehdi Valipour told state television.

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President Ebrahim Raisi expressed his sorrow at the derailment and offered his condolences to the families of the dead.

He also issued orders to speed up the investigation into the causes of the accident, his office said.

Roads and Urban Development Minister Rostam Ghassemi apologized to the Iranians on Twitter, saying the ministry was responsible for the incident.

The Tabas prosecutor visited the site as a judicial investigation was launched, Iranian media reported.

The train derailment comes after a tower collapsed in southwestern Iran last month, killing at least 43 people.

The collapse of the 10-storey Metropol building, which was being built in Abadan, sparked angry protests in solidarity with the families of the dead.

The provincial judiciary said it had arrested 13 people, including the mayor of Abadan and two former mayors, suspected of being “responsible” for the tragedy.

The disaster was one of Iran’s deadliest in years and sparked nationwide demonstrations against authorities accused of corruption and incompetence.

In 2016, two trains collided and caught fire in northern Iran, killing 44 people and injuring dozens.

The then head of the Iranian railways resigned after four of his employees were arrested following the collision on the main line between Tehran and the second city Mashhad.

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