Mon, 11 Sep 2000

13 killed, dozens injured in Batang train collision

SEMARANG (JP): At least 16 people were killed and dozens injured on Sunday when an economy-class train smashed into a freight train in Batang regency, about 100 kilometers west of here.

Police said the collision, which involved the Semarang-bound Tawangjaya II, happened at around 6:30 a.m. in Ketanggan village, Grinsing district, located between Pelabuhan and Krengseng railway stations.

Deputy chief of the traffic accident unit at Batang Police Station, Sgt. Maj. Haryo Diko Dewo, told The Jakarta Post that only five fatalities had been identified: Budisantosa, Rabun, Wonojoyo, Sugiyanto and Solikah.

All the victims were taken to nearby hospitals, including Montongsari Hospital in Waleri, Kendal General Hospital, Kendal Islamic Hospital, Pekalongan General Hospital and Semarang Kariadi General Hospital.

As of 7 p.m. local time, rescue workers, police and local people were still trying to free trapped passengers.

A tow train had arrived from Surabaya and was trying to clear the lines.

"We're still searching for more victims among the train debris. Delays have been unavoidable," Haryo said.

State railway company PT Kereta Api Indonesia (PT KAI) shuttled executive passengers on the Jakarta-bound Kamandanu and Senja Utama Semarang trains by bus to the neighboring town of Pekalongan, where other trains were waiting.

Details on the number of passengers onboard the trains were not immediately available, but it was reported that the Tawangjaya II, which was traveling from Jakarta, was packed.

The passenger train comprised five cars, while the freight train was made up of eight wagons.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the Pelabuhan train station attendant signaled the Tawangjaya II to leave the station too early, Haryo said.

"It was this decision that most probably resulted in the head- on crash. But investigations are still underway," Haryo said, adding that Central Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Kadaryanto arrived at the scene of the accident at around 2:30 p.m.

In Jakarta, PT KAI spokesman Zainal Abidin said workers expected to have cleared the wrecked trains from the line by 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, Antara reported that the accident delayed by several hours the schedules of three trains, namely the executive-class Argo Bromo and super executive-class Argo Bromo Anggrek serving the Jakarta - Surabaya route, and the Senja Utama Semarang. These trains would depart only after midnight.

Zainal said that other trains heading for Jakarta on Sunday would not be much affected.

"They will probably experience delays of between five to eight hours at the most. On Monday we hope everything is back to normal," Zainal said.

Sunday's crash was the second most deadly train accident this year.

On Jan. 13, 12 people sitting on top of an electric train plying between Bogor and Sukabumi died and 10 others were injured after they hit a bridge in Paledang near Bogor, West Java.

A series of train accidents followed, most of them caused by human error. On Aug. 19, a collision between a freight train and a passenger train plying the Jakarta-Tangerang route in Pademangan, North Jakarta, left three passengers dead and 10 others injured. (har/edt)