The world's 10 deadliest train accidents

World’s Deadly Train Accidents, Analysis of Contributing Factors

Queen of The Sea, Sri Lanka

The Queen of The Sea train crash in Sri Lanka, caused by the Indian Ocean Tsunami which struck in December 2004, is regarded as the worst train disaster in railroad history after it caused the death of over 1,700 people.

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The overloaded passenger train, Queen of the Sea Line, was flooded on the south-western coastal railway line of Sri Lanka, at Peraliya near Telwatta. The train was drowned and destroyed by two waves causing death of passengers who were packed in eight carriages.

The train was approaching its destination on the way from Colombo to the southern city of Galle at the time of the tragedy. The Queen of The Sea returned to the Peraliya station with its restored locomotive in December 2008 and was put back into service on the coastal line.

Bihar derailment, India

A train accident in the state of Bihar, India, which resulted in the death of approximately 800 people, occurred in June 1981 when a passenger train crossing a bridge over the Bagmati river near the city of Mansi was hit by a cyclone.

The train was derailed from the track and then plunged into the river causing the deaths of hundreds of people.

The train was carrying approximately 1,000 passengers in nine cars between Mansi and Saharsa at the time of the accident. The train also believed to have suffered brake failure during the disaster.

Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, France

The Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne derailment in France caused death of more than 700 people and remains the greatest rail disaster in French history.

The accident occurred in December 1917 when a heavily loaded 350m long train derailed after suffering brake failure just before Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne station. The train caught fire while descending into a valley after departing from Modane station.

Approximately 1,000 French troops from the Italian front were returning home in two trains, coupled to form a single train powered by one engine due to shortage of locomotives, to the Chambéry station on the Culoz-Modane railway line. The 526t train had 19 cars and was running at excessive speeds at the time of the accident.

Ciurea station, Romania

The Ciurea rail disaster in Romania caused a death toll of over 600 people in January 1917 at Ciurea station in Romania.

Brake failure caused derailment and fire after being switched onto a loop to prevent collision with another train at the Ciurea station. The train was descending down a steep bank at high speed near the station at the time of the disaster.

The runaway train with 26 carriages was carrying approximately 1,000 people on the line from Iasi to Bârlad at the time of incident. The passengers included wounded soldiers and refugees fleeing a German advance.

Guadalajara accident, Mexico

The Guadalajara train accident in Mexico caused the death of more than 600 people. The disaster occurred in January 1915 due to brake failure when the train was running on a steep descent.

The train derailed from the track and plunged into a canyon near Guadalajara causing death of many people who were thrown off from the train as it inclined curves at high speed. Approximately 300 people survived the accident.

The train was carrying passengers from Colima to Guadalajara on the Pacific coast at the time of the accident. The train, with 20 carriages, was specially allocated for the families of the Venustiano Carranza troops in the midst of the Mexican Revolution.

Ufa train disaster, Russia

The Ufa train disaster, which occurred in June 1989 near the city of Ufa in Soviet Union, resulted in a death toll of 575 people and remains to be the deadliest railway disaster in Russian and Soviet history.

The disaster occurred due to a highly flammable cloud created by the liquefied gas spill from a burst pipeline near the railway line, where two passenger trains were passing each other between Ufa and Asha. The trains were carrying a total of approximately 1,300 passengers on the Adler-Novosibirsk route at the time of the accident.

The force of huge explosion, which was estimated to be 10kt TNT equivalent, fully burnt seven carriages, and destroyed 37 train cars and two locomotives. The accident caused injuries to more than 800 people.

Balvano, Italy

An accident near Balvano in southern Italy in March 1944 caused death of 520 people making it the worst ever train disaster in the country. It is also regarded as one of the moret unusual rail accidents of the century.

The disaster occurred due to carbon monoxide gas from steam engines of the locomotive No 8017 when it stalled with all the cars on a steep gradient inside the Armi tunnel. The low quality coal created poisonous carbon monoxide which caused the fatalities.

The passengers and crew failed to notice the danger as the smoke and fumes spread slowly. Some people in the last few cars survived as they had escaped before the poisonous gases reached the end cars.

Torre del Bierzo, Spain

The Torre del Bierzo rail accident in January 1944 near the village of Torre del Bierzo in Spain causing the death of over 500 people.

The disaster occurred due to a fire caused by the collision of three trains including Galicia mail express, a shunting engine train with three carriages and a coal train inside a tunnel.

The mail train consisting of 12 carriages suffered from brake failure and was hit by the shunting engine. The trains caught fire, which destroyed the signalling cable. The coal train with 27 loaded wagons from the opposite direction then hit the shunting engine train causing many fatalities.

Awash derailment, Ethiopia

The Awash rail accident caused approximately 400 deaths and remains the worst train disaster ever in Africa. The accident occurred in January 1985 near the town of Awash in Ethiopia due to the derailment of an express train.

The train derailed and crashed on a curve while crossing a bridge between Arba and Awash railway stations on the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway line. The four cars of the train plunged into a ravine on the Awash River.

The train was carrying approximately 1,000 people in five cars and running at excessive speed at the time of the accident.

Al Ayyat train disaster, Egypt

The train disaster occurred near Al Ayyat, 46 miles away from Cairo, Egypt, in February 2002 causing the death of 383 people.

The passenger train travelling between Cairo and Luxor was overloaded with people in its 11 carriages. A cooking gas cylinder explosion in the fifth carriage creating a fire that spread to seven carriages.

The burning train travelled for four miles due to lack of communication between the driver and the rear carriages, and finally stopped near Al-Ayyat. Many of the passengers that jumped from the train did not survive.

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