Train slams into another at station in central Indonesia; at least 36 killed, dozens injured

By Niniek Karmini, AP
Saturday, October 2, 2010

Train crash in central Indonesia kills at least 36

PETARUKAN, Indonesia — A train crashed into another parked at a railway station in central Indonesia early Saturday, killing at least 36 people and injuring dozens, many seriously, officials and witnesses said.

Rescuers spent hours searching through the mangled wreckage for trapped survivors of the accident, which occurred just before 3 a.m., as many passengers were sleeping.

A train from the capital, Jakarta, plowed into the rear of a train that was sitting at a station in Petarukan, a coastal city in Central Java province, said Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan.

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 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 idle train.

“Bloody corpses were hanging from the carriages. … There was nothing we could do,” he said. “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. Sumarno said it took hours to pry loose a pregnant woman, who suffered injuries to her arms and legs.

A family member sitting behind her died, he said.

Investigators were trying to determine if human error was to blame.

“It may also have been mechanical,” said Ervan, the transport ministry spokesman. “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 Tri Yuniasari, a spokeswoman for the Hasyim Ashari hospital who was helping keep tallies.

At Hasyim Ashari, a nurse said the hospital always has 15-member medical teams on standby for emergencies, but that supplies were short nonetheless.

“It is grueling, indeed, but what we really felt was the lack of ambulances and instruments,” Yayuk said, giving only one name because she wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.

Among the victims were Bayu Sakti, a 33-year-old army sergeant, his 29-year-old wife and their 4-year-old son.

“It’d been six months since they’d come home,” the man’s 60-year-old mother, Agatha, told the news portal “We were waiting for them.”

More than 40 people were hurt, some with severe injuries and broken bones, doctors and nurses said.

Indonesia — with a reputation for poor safety standards and maintenance — has been hit by a series of plane, train and ferry accidents in recent years that have killed hundreds.

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 Ervan and officials at a nearby hospital.

Associated Press writers Niniek Karmini and Ali Kotarumalos in Jakarta contributed to this report.

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