At least 17 people are said to have died in a serious train accident in Iran, and several dozen others were injured. The death toll could still rise.

At least 17 people died in a train accident in Iran. Several dozen other passengers were injured in the accident near the city of Tabas, the Iranian news agency Isna said on Wednesday, citing the Red Crescent. Accordingly, the train derailed on the route between the pilgrimage city of Mashhad and the desert city of Yasd. A higher number of victims is feared, it said. According to media reports, the incident happened when the train collided with an excavator.

Five of the eleven wagons derailed

Pictures from the Isna news agency showed derailed wagons surrounded by dust. Rescue workers rushed to the scene of the accident about 50 kilometers outside of Tabas. Helicopters were also deployed to rescue the seriously injured. The accident happened at 5:30 a.m. local time (3 a.m. CEST), and there were a total of 348 passengers on board.

According to the rescue workers, five of the eleven wagons derailed. Pictures from the Isna news agency showed one wagon tipped onto the track and four other wagons wedged together. The accident site is in a desert region. According to media reports, the local public prosecutor visited the scene and investigations were initiated into the cause of the accident.

Accident reminds of train disaster 2016

The accident is reminiscent of a serious train disaster in 2016, when dozens of people were killed and injured in north-eastern Iran. At that time, the rescue work was also made more difficult by the fact that the scene of the accident was in a remote region. The worst rail accident in Iran occurred in 2004 when a freight train carrying chemicals exploded near Nishabur, killing more than 300 people.

Two weeks before the current train accident, the collapse of a building under construction on a main road in Abadan in south-west Iran claimed 43 lives. The accident sparked angry protests across the country. The protesters blamed corruption and incompetence in the authorities for the building collapse.