Train collides with fuel truck in Jakarta; 10 dead

Train collides with fuel truck in Jakarta; 10 dead

JAKARTA - A commuter train collided with a truck filled with fuel at a level crossing in south Jakarta Monday morning, sending plumes of fire and smoke into the air for two hours, until rain helped firefighters douse the flames.

At least 10 passengers died and some 80 passengers were injured, with most taken to hospital, police said. The vast majority were women, for whom the front carriage had been reserved.

Residents living nearby helped first responders break windows of derailed carriages to rescue passengers, eyewitnesses said.

A commuter, Ms Veronica, told MetroTV news channel she heard an explosion and felt smoke enter the carriage. She was then trampled by fleeing passengers.

"We panicked because we could not breathe," she said. "I saw many victims with burns on their legs, hands and stomachs."

National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told reporters police would work with the National Transportation Safety Committee to determine the causes of the crash. Police also appealed to the public to submit any video they have to help investigations.

Transport Minister E.E. Mangindaan said his ministry would try to speed up the construction of underpasses at key intersections to prevent future mishaps.

Monday's crash, the worst rail accident in several years, has cast a spotlight on safety measures at such crossings as the number of vehicles rises rapidly.

Transport Ministry officials say there are some 3,900 such crossings in Java, of which fewer than 1,000 are manned.

The train driver and a technician died in the blaze, police said.

The driver of the fuel truck and his companion survived but had up to 25 per cent burns on their faces and were being treated for their injuries. The truck driver was transporting 24,000 litres of fuel to petrol stations in the area, state oil company Pertamina's spokesman Ali Mundakir said.

Pertamina said in a statement it would foot medical bills and give compensation to victims.

The accident occurred some 200m from the site of a 1987 train crash, the worst in recent history, which killed 156 people when two trains collided head-on.

Monday's train was part of the commuter rail network, which serves the Greater Jakarta area, with some 30 million residents.

"The line is a vital transport mode in Jakarta," MP Michael Wattimena of Parliament's transport committee said, calling for a thorough probe. "A tragedy like this cannot happen again."

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