A passenger train in eastern Iran hit an excavator more than half its cars derailed, killing 21 and injuring 87 on Wednesday (July 8).
The derailment occurred close to the city of Tabas in the desert, and it was the latest tragedy to befall the Islamic Republic in recent weeks. Tehran is currently struggling under the sanctions imposed by the United States, and any possibility of a return to its nuclear deal with world powers is currently uncertain.
The train, operated by the state-owned Islamic Republic Railway, carried 350 passengers from the village of Tabas, 340 miles southeast of Tehran, to the city of Yazd.
The journey began with an overnight train from Iran’s holy city of Mashhad.
Authorities did not immediately explain how the derailment occurred in the rural scrubland near the railway bridge; nonetheless, it appeared, based on images taken after the collision, that the train’s locomotive passed the excavator and that later cars somehow collided with the digger.
An injured passenger told Iranian State television that, “Passengers were bouncing in the car like balls in the air”.
The number of casualties was reported by the state-run IRNA news agency, citing emergency officials.
Rescue crews, including ambulances and helicopters, arrived in the rural area where communication is limited. According to officials, over a dozen people were critically injured, with several being taken to local hospitals.
Aerial footage of the accident site showed train cars on their sides, with some rescuers hurrying to the scene to assist the injured.