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Regional & National

Bus-train crash kills 9, injures 212 in Argentina

September 13th, 2011 3:34 pm by MICHAEL WARREN

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A train slammed into a bus trying to beat it across the railroad tracks during rush hour in the Argentine capital Tuesday, ramming the vehicle into a platform and then striking another locomotive head-on. At least nine people, including the bus driver, were killed and 212 injured, authorities said.

The force of the arriving train reduced the bus to a fraction of its width as it became wedged against the station platform in the densely populated Flores neighborhood. The front of the train then slammed into another train that was preparing to leave in the opposite direction. Video of the crash shows the bus driving around a partially lowered barrier despite flashing lights that warned of the oncoming train.

Emergency officials raced to extricate several bodies from under the wreckage left by Tuesday's collision, and helicopters carried the injured to at least seven hospitals around the city.

At least 20 of the injured were in critical condition, Alberto Crescenti, the director-general of Argentina's emergency medical system, told reporters.

Children also were among those injured, said Argentine Transportation Secretary J.P. Schiavi. The deadly crashes happened at 6:15 a.m. local time (5:15 a.m. EDT; 0915 GMT), just when many parents use public transportation to take their children to school.

Helicopters helped carry the injured to at least seven hospitals around the city.

As with many crossings in the city, buildings are so close to the tracks in the Flores neighborhood that drivers have little visibility of approaching trains.

According to Argentina's national transportation regulator, 440 people and 165 vehicles were hit by trains in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area last year, causing a total of 269 deaths — more than one every other day on average.

Buenos Aires' passenger rail system moves at street level through most neighborhoods of the capital and the surrounding province, trying the patience of drivers and people walking by who often can be seen ignoring the lights, bells and barriers that signal approaching trains. The potential for collisions increases at rush hour, particularly next to stations, where trains arrive every few minutes and the barriers remain down while passengers get on and off.

The Sarmiento line where Tuesday's collisions occurred connects the suburb of Moreno to the Once station downtown, and has more street-level crossings than any other in the capital. A $1.2 billion project to move its tracks into an underground tunnel has been delayed for more than a decade.

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