TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A train collision in northern Iran killed at least 43 people and injured 100 on Friday, Iran's state media reported.
The official IRNA news agency quoted Mostafa Mortazavi, a spokesman for the country's Red Crescent, as saying the latest casualty figures had risen to 43 killed and 100 injured in the accident that occurred in sub-zero temperatures when a moving passenger train struck another parked at Haftkhan station about 250 kilometers (150 miles) east of the capital Tehran.
The report said four of the fatalities were railway employees who were onboard the two trains when the accident occurred, near the city of Semnan.
The report said that in the collision, four carriages derailed and two caught fire. It showed footage of rescue teams working near the carriages on fire. The casualties from the crash were taken to nearby hospitals.
Initial reports had put the death toll at eight but the provincial governor, Mohammad Reza Khabbaz, later told state TV that more bodies were recovered at the scene of the crash.
Khabbaz said the cause of the accident was under investigation and that the parked train was apparently not inside the station but on a main rail line at the time of the collision.
The IRNA report said the 100 people who were injured in the collision were all in hospital. It said many of them had only sustained minor injuries.
Earlier, Ali Asghar Ahmadi, head of Iran's Red Crescent, told state TV that the death toll may raise further, based on unconfirmed reports from the site.
Helicopters and ambulances were sent to join the rescue operation, Ahmadi added.
Later on the day, President Hassan Rouhani issued a statement offering his condolences to the victims' families and assigned senior vice-president Eshagh Janahgiri to lead an investigation and identify those responsible for the incident.
Meanwhile, the minister for roads and urban development, Abbas Akhoundi, postponed his visit to Turkmenistan to visit the site of the accident.
A parliament representative for the region, Gholam Reza Kateb, hinted that the head of the Semnan train station may have mistakenly allowed the train to proceed prematurely.
Iran reports about 17,000 deaths on average in traffic accidents every year. The high accident rate is mostly blamed on drivers disregarding traffic laws, old vehicles and inadequate emergency services.
Years of punitive international sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear program have also badly affected Iran's infrastructures, including roads and the railway network.