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Argentines seek answers after deadly train crash

Update: February, 24/2012 - 11:46

BUENOS AIRES – Argentine families demanded answers on Thursday, one day after 50 people were killed and more than 700 injured when a packed commuter train plowed into a Buenos Aires rail terminus at rush hour.

The train, carrying around 2,000 passengers, slammed into a wall at a major railway station early Wednesday, sending carriages crashing into each other and crushing the passengers inside.

Inspector General Leandro Despouy, who oversees the functioning of the state railways, called for authorities to cancel the concession to the private company, Trenes de Buenos Aires S.A. (TBA), which operated the train.

Despouy, who audited the same suburban train line in 2008, said the accident was caused by a "lack of respect for the most basic rules."

Back in 2008 "the situation was disastrous and the braking system was terrible," said Despouy. State authorities have "not taken measures since then, nor applied serious sanctions" against the company.

The head of TBA's technical department, Roque Cirigliano, rejected the accusations as he spoke to reporters at the scene of the accident. An angry crowd shouted "Murderers, murderers!" as he spoke.

In a statement, TBA said it did not know the cause of the crash and that it would assist in the investigation.

Planning Minister Julio de Vido told reporters on Thursday that the government would sue the company.

Marcos Cordoba, the train's 28 year-old conductor, was pried out of the wreckage and is recovering in a private clinic under heavy police protection. No charges have been filed against him, officials said.

Blood tests show that Cordoba had not been drinking, and Transportation Secretary Juan Pablo Schiavi said that he had an excellent work record.

The union leader representing workers on the Sarmiento line said he feared that the low-level workers would be used as scapegoats for the accident, and called for top company officials to be investigated.

At the morgue, victims' families desperately searched for the missing, joined by teams of psychologists from the health ministry. -- afp

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