A passenger train operated by the state-run Islamic Republic Railway carrying 348 people partialy derailed in eastern Iran early Wednesday morning (at around 05:30 local time (01:00 GMT) in the desert, between the cities of Mashhad and Yazd ,near the city of Tabas. At least 17 people were killed and 50 more injured in the accident. Over a dozen people suffered critical injuries. The death toll is expected to rise. The train hit an excavator near the track and five of the train’s 11 carriages were knocked off the line. It wasn’t immediately clear why an excavator would have been close to the train track at night.“Passengers were bouncing in the car like balls in the air,” said an injured passenger.
Three helicopters and 24 ambulances were dispatched to the scene. Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi offered condolences over the crash. An investigation has been launched by the Tabas prosecutor. Iran had its deadliest train disaster in 2004, when a train loaded with petrol, fertilizer and cotton crashed near the north-eastern city of Neyshabur, killing almost 320 people. Other accidents occurred in the past. In 2016, two trains collided and caught fire in northern Iran, killing 44 people and injuring dozens.Iran has some 8,700 miles of railway lines.