17 dead, 70 injured in Tunisia train crash

Train track. Image source bluebell-railway

Train track. Image source bluebell-railway

At least 17 people were killed and 70 injured when a passenger train hit a lorry south of the Tunisian capital on Tuesday, the transport and interior ministries said.

Most of the dead were passengers on the train, which derailed, the transport ministry said.

“The toll is currently 17 dead and around 70 injured,” Mongi Khadhi, a spokesman for the emergency services told AFP.

An initial report had put the number killed at 14.

The interior ministry said the train was heading into the capital from the town of Gaafour, 120 kilometres (80 miles) to the southwest, in the morning rush hour.

The collision happened near El Fahes, some 60 kilometres from Tunis, at around 6:30 am (0530 GMT).

Witnesses spoke of mangled wreckage at the scene and dead bodies strewn across the tracks.

“This is horrible, there is blood and bits of flesh everywhere,” one witness told Shems-FM radio. “There are people still trapped under the carriage, which overturned.”

Transport Minister Mahmoud Ben Romdhane said that the drivers of the train and the lorry were both speeding at the time of the collision.

“The death toll could rise,” Ben Romdhane told Mosaique FM radio.

The lorry driver, originally reported to have been killed, survived the collision and was being questioned by police, a local official told the station.

Another witness told Shems-FM that there was no barrier at the crossing where the accident occurred.

“There have been accidents here before,” he added. “We must put up a barrier quickly.”

Those injured in the collision were taken to hospitals in El Fahes and Zaghouan, and the scene of the accident was visited by the ministers of interior and health.

Train crashes are common in Tunisia, which has a dilapidated rail network featuring many unprotected crossings.

In July, a train derailed in the country’s northwest, killing five people and injuring around 40.

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