MOSCOW: At least 16 people were killed on Friday when a train slammed into a bus that had broken down on a level crossing east of Moscow, authorities said.
Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement that 19 Uzbek citizens had died in the crash, but Russia’s Investigative Committee reported a lower figure.
The accident occurred before dawn on Friday near the town of Pokrov, some 110 kilometres (70 miles) east of the Russian capital.
“According to preliminary information, 16 people, including a child, have been killed,” the Investigative Committee said.
“Other passengers, including minors, have been taken to hospital with various injuries. The number of dead and injured is being ascertained,” it said, confirming it had opened an investigation.
The regional interior ministry said the bus broke down on the level crossing.
The train, travelling at 90 kilometres per hour from the second city of Saint Petersburg to Nizhny Novgorod, east of Moscow, slammed into the bus at 3:29 am (0029 GMT) on Friday.
The train was 400 metres away from the crossing when the driver slammed on emergency brakes and sounded a warning alarm, but it was not able to stop before it hit the vehicle, Russian Railways said.
All victims on the bus
All of those killed were on the bus, which was carrying 58 people, 56 of them Uzbek nationals.
The remaining two were drivers from Kazakhstan.
“There are no victims among the train passengers,” the interior ministry said.
Images from the scene showed the white Mercedes bus had been almost completely torn apart with most of its roof ripped off and debris scattered across the tracks.
The Uzbek ambassador to Russia was on his way to the scene along with other staff from the embassy, it said.
A team of experts were flying to the region to offer assistance, it added.
The foreign ministry of neighbouring Kazakhstan confirmed the two bus drivers, one of whom was killed, were Kazakh nationals.
The train continued on its route at around 11:00 am local time.
Accident mortality very high
The collision appears to be Russia’s most deadly accident involving a train since 2006 when 22 people were killed when a train struck a bus at an unprotected crossing in the southern Krasnodar region.
In 1996, a train hit a school bus in the area of the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, killing 21 children and injuring 19 others. The driver was unable to see the bus early enough to brake because of a heavy fog.
Russia’s road accident mortality rate is extremely high, although it has been declining over the past few years.
Some 20,000 people died in car crashes in Russia in 2016.
Seventeen people were killed in August when a bus carrying construction workers veered off a pier and plunged into the Black Sea.—AFP