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At least 44 killed in train crash in Iran; dispatcher possibly at fault

By Eric DuVall and Doug G. Ware
At least 44 killed in train crash in Iran; dispatcher possibly at fault
A destroyed train coach at the site of a train accident in the remote province of Semnan, Iran on Friday. At least 35 people were killed when two passenger trains collided. Photo courtesy European Press Agency

TEHRAN, Nov. 25 (UPI) -- At least 44 people were killed Friday and dozens more were injured when two passenger trains collided in Iran on Friday, news reports and authorities said.

The crash happened in the rural northern province of Semnan.

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Officials said the cause remains under investigation but it appeared temperatures that had plunged to below freezing, causing one of the passenger trains to stop on the tracks. The other train hit it, causing both to derail and several cars to become engulfed in fire.

Azerbaijan's APA news agency cited an Iranian rail official in reporting that investigators suspect the crash was the fault of a dispatcher. The report also acknowledges a malfunction in the braking system.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani ordered investigators to the scene to begin trying to piece together what happened, and expressed condolences to the victims' families.

It was not immediately clear how many people were on one of the trains, making it difficult for officials to know how many are still unaccounted for.

Officials said rescue efforts were being hampered by the remote location of the crash, which took place about 150 miles from the capital Tehran.

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A local Red Cross official said only one rescue helicopter had been able to reach the scene in the immediate aftermath, though about 100 people were rescued from inside one of the trains.

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