Sat, Apr 07, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Paris train accident injures 71

RUSH HOUR The driver blamed the incident on a technical glitch which prevented the train from stopping and hitting a rail buffer. Fifty-eight people were hospitalized

AFP , PARIS

More than 70 people were injured on Thursday with broken noses, cracked ribs and sprains, when a train carrying hundreds of rush-hour commuters smacked into the rail buffer of a Paris station.

Police opened an investigation into the causes of the accident at the Gare de l'Est station in northern Paris, questioning the driver who said the locomotive or a technical glitch with the brake system was at fault.

The nine-carriage train carrying 600 passengers hit the buffer at a speed of about 5kph to 7kph, the state-owned SNCF rail service said.

Roger, a 58-year-old commuter, said the train arrived at the station 15 minutes late and that many passengers were standing up, ready to step off, when they were thrown to the floor by the impact.

"I was dozing ... and then there was a sudden jolt," he said. "A woman in front of me fell and hurt her knee. She was bleeding through her trousers."

Paris police chief Pierre Mutz went to the station to oversee an emergency operation involving 115 firefighters and rescue workers.

Doctor Henri Lehot of the Paris firefighting brigade said 71 people were injured and 58 had been hospitalized.

He said the injured commuters suffered from cracked ribs, knee injuries, broken noses and sprains, but all of those taken to hospital would be able to go home by the end of the day.

The regional train traveling from Chateau-Thierry, east of Paris, hit the buffer shortly before 8:30am.

A security cordon was thrown up around the platform and surrounding area. The damaged stopper was broken into pieces.

It was the second time that a train from that line has rammed into the buffer at Gare de l'Est.

In August 1988, one person was killed and 73 injured when a train hit the stopper at a speed of 28kph.

The train driver told police that he was not at fault and was allowed to go home, a source close to the investigation said.

"I put on the brakes at the right time," the driver told police, the source said.

Roger said that an angry mob of passengers stepped off the train, approached the driver's compartment and were "bashing the window as if they wanted to lynch him."

The director of the regional train service, Thierry Mignauw, said the investigation would determine whether the brake system was defective.

Transport Minister Dominique Perben ordered a separate technical probe and sent two accident experts to the station.

A SNCF spokesman initially dismissed the accident as minor, saying that some passengers had suffered "a few bruises".

"It's not an accident, but an incident, which happens from time to time," the spokesman said, adding that the train had "hit the buffer a bit roughly."

The accident caused disruption and delays for other suburban rail services to the station, a major hub for trains from the eastern outskirts of Paris.

The worst accident in a Paris train station dates back to June 1988, when two suburban trains collided at Gare de Lyon station, leaving 56 dead and 32 injured.

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