24 killed, hundreds injured in Turkey rail disaster

The train, which was carrying 362 passengers, was travelling from the Edirne region to Istanbul's Halkali station on Sunday when six carriages derailed in the Tekirdag region. The transport ministry said the train derailed because recent heavy downpo
The train, which was carrying 362 passengers, was travelling from the Edirne region to Istanbul's Halkali station on Sunday when six carriages derailed in the Tekirdag region. The transport ministry said the train derailed because recent heavy downpours had caused the ground beneath the track to erode away.PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL • Twenty-four people were killed and hundreds injured when a train packed with weekend passengers derailed in north-west Turkey due to ground erosion after heavy rain.

The train, which was carrying 362 passengers, was travelling from the Edirne region on the Greek and Bulgarian borders to Istanbul's Halkali station on Sunday when six carriages derailed in the Tekirdag region.

Deputy Prime Minister Recep Akdag said yesterday that 24 people died, in a sharp rise from the previous toll of 10.

The state-run Anadolu news agency quoted Mr Akdag as saying that search operations through the derailed train carriages had been completed yesterday morning.

Health Minister Ahmet Demircan said 318 people required treatment after the accident, with 124 still hospitalised.

Regional prosecutors have opened an investigation, with the two train drivers and three other railway workers summoned to give statements, Anadolu said.

The transport ministry said the train derailed because recent heavy downpours had caused the ground beneath the track to erode away.

Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan said the latest checks on the rails had been made in April, Anadolu reported.

Turkish media, including the Hurriyet newspaper, published pictures showing the erosion had been so bad that part of the track had been in the air with no ground left to support it.

Television pictures showed several train carriages sprawled on their sides, and shocked and injured passengers being taken away on stretchers as rescue workers picked through the wreckage.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed his condolences over those who lost their lives in the accident which he said has "deeply upset the whole nation".

The accident, one of Turkey's worst train disasters of recent years, threatens to cast a shadow over a lavish ceremony scheduled in Ankara later yesterday to mark the inauguration of President Erdogan, and the transition to a new system of government.

Mr Erdogan said all state institutions were "using every means available to help", vowing that there would be a comprehensive investigation into the "tragic accident".

The authorities under Mr Erdogan have over the past years sought to modernise Turkey's once ramshackle rail network, building several high speed inter-city lines.

Turkish passengers have in general preferred taking planes or buses for inter-city travel, but this has been changing with the new high-speed lines.

The train involved in the accident appeared to be one of the slower passenger trains travelling on a single-track line.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 10, 2018, with the headline '24 killed, hundreds injured in Turkey rail disaster'. Print Edition | Subscribe