36 die, dozens are hurt in rail carnage
Desperate search for survivors after trains collide in Indonesia
Published 03/10/2010 | 05:00
AT LEAST 36 people died and dozens more were seriously injured yesterday when one train crashed into another at a railway station in central Indonesia.
Rescuers spent hours searching through the mangled wreckage for trapped survivors of the accident, which occurred just before 3am, as many of the passengers were sleeping.
A train from the capital Jakarta ploughed into the rear of a train that was sitting at a station in Petarukan, a coastal city in central Java province, said a spokesman for the transport ministry.
The force of the crash knocked several carriages off the track, waking Anwar Sumarno, a university student, with a bang. The lights were knocked out in his cabin and the screams of the injured pierced the darkness.
"At first, I was so shocked I couldn't move. But then I grabbed my backpack and shoved my way outside," said the 24-year-old, who had been sitting near the front of the stationary train.
"Bloody corpses were hanging from the carriages. There was nothing we could do. It was total confusion."
It took almost an hour for rescue workers and ambulances to arrive at the scene, which was littered with twisted debris.
Villagers, railway officials and some passengers used their bare hands and bamboo sticks to search for survivors.
Mr Sumarno said it took hours to pry loose a pregnant woman who suffered injuries to her arms and legs. A family member who was sitting behind her died.
Investigators were trying last night to determine if human error was to blame.
"It may also have been mechanical," said the transport ministry spokesman.
He added: "We're checking to see if the signals of the parked train were working properly."
The 36 bodies were taken to three nearby hospitals, said a spokeswoman for the Hasyim Ashari Hospital.
A nurse working there said the hospital always had 15-member medical teams on standby for such emergencies, but that supplies were still in short supply.
"It is gruelling, indeed, but what we really felt was the lack of ambulances and instruments," she said.
Among the victims were Bayu Sakti, a 33-year-old army sergeant, his 29-year-old wife and the couple's son, aged just four years.
"It had been six months since they had come home," the man's 60-year-old mother, Agatha, told the news portal Detik.com. "We were waiting for them."
More than 40 people were hurt in the tragic accident. Some of these had severe injuries and broken bones, according to the doctors and nurses treating them.
Indonesia -- which has long had a reputation for particularly poor safety standards and maintenance -- has been hit by a series of plane, train and ferry accidents in recent years that have killed hundreds of people.
Just an hour after Saturday's collision, another train crashed in the town of Solo, also in central Java, killing at least one person, according to the transport ministry and officials at a nearby hospital.