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Train Derails in Ethiopia, 418 Die : 559 Injured; Officials Fear Wreck May Slow Famine Relief

January 14, 1985|Associated Press

Nairobi,Kenya — An express train derailed in central Ethiopia, sending passenger coaches plummeting into a ravine, killing 418 people and injuring 559 others, Ethiopian railway and relief officials said today.

Nearly all those aboard were killed or injured in the accident, officials of the Franco-Ethiopian Railway Co. said in Dijbouti. The wreck occurred about 125 miles east of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

An Ethopian government official said shipment of famine relief supplies might be seriously affected by the derailment. Large amounts of emergency supplies arrive in Djibouti and are transported to Ethiopia.

Railroad officials said Sunday's accident occurred on a curving bridge. Relief officials said the train left the track while rounding a curve at high speed. One relief worker said the engineer apparently failed to reduce speed while rounding the curve.

Officials of the Ethiopian Red Cross, which sent a medical team to the crash site, said injured passengers were evacuated from the site, about 125 miles east of Addis Ababa, to hospitals in Addis Ababa and Nazareth.

A high-ranking official of the Franco-Ethiopian Railway Co. in Djibouti said most of the injured were believed to be in serious condition.

The official, who demanded anonymity, said the train was an express with seven passenger cars and was carrying about 1,000 people from Diredawa in western Ethiopia to Addis Ababa, about 220 miles to the west.

The Franco-Ethiopian railway is a single continuous line from Djibouti, a small country northeast of Ethiopia on the Gulf of Aden, through Diredawa to Addis Ababa.

Ethiopians secessionist groups claimed responsibility for attacking two trains on the Ethiopia-Djibouti line last year. However, one Ethiopian official who spoke on condition he not be identified said there is no suspicion of sabotage.

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