Argentine commuter train derailment injures 31

Police officers stand in front of a derailed commuter train at the downtown Retiro station Monday in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The train derailed on arrival in Buenos Aires injuring 31 passengers and causing traffic chaos on the fourth day of a strike that has shut down subways in Argentina’s capital. Enlarge photo

EDUARDO DI BAIA/Associated Press

Police officers stand in front of a derailed commuter train at the downtown Retiro station Monday in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The train derailed on arrival in Buenos Aires injuring 31 passengers and causing traffic chaos on the fourth day of a strike that has shut down subways in Argentina’s capital.

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – The last car on a commuter train derailed and smashed into a signal tower near a station Monday, injuring 31 passengers six months after a commuter train crash killed 51 and injured hundreds in Argentina’s capital.

The accident at midday added to traffic chaos in Buenos Aires caused by a four-day-old strike that has shut down the city’s subway system.

Most of those injured were in the last car of the train on the Mitre line, which runs from Tigre in the northern suburbs to the downtown Retiro station. The car swung off the rails and slammed into a huge railway signal tower, which then fell onto the train. Panicked passengers fled into the rail yard.

Emergency medical director Alberto Crescenti said six people were hospitalized with multiple injuries, although none seemed critical, and 25 others were treated at the scene.

The wreck happened on the first workday of a subway shutdown that began Friday night. Union workers are pressing for wage hikes to make up for inflation, and the national and capital governments have blamed each other for the impasse. Just before the train wreck, Mayor Mauricio Macri’s cabinet chief said 500 buses were being mobilized to provide free service along subway lines.

Monday’s wreck was the worst since February, when a commuter train on the Sarmiento line slammed into the Once station, killing 51 people and injuring more than 700.

That accident prompted President Cristina Fernandez to fire her transportation minister, reshuffle her Cabinet and end the concession for both the Sarmiento and Mitre lines that had been granted to the Trains of Buenos Aires company, which repeatedly failed safety requirements since taking over a third of the capital’s commuter rail system during the 1990s privatization era.

Both lines have been run since May by a joint venture operated by the capital’s two other rail companies, Emepa y Roggio. Argentine Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo, now also overseeing transportation, has been preparing a plan for a major investment in commuter rail improvements.