A Moscow-bound express train derailed at high speed on a stretch of defective track and burst into flame, killing 22 people and injuring more than 160, Tass news agency said Wednesday.
The agency said that warnings about the track had been issued a day before the accident occurred Tuesday on the line linking Moscow and Leningrad. The warnings apparently were not passed on to crews of trains passing through the area.
A total of 107 people were taken to the hospital and 61 others were treated at the scene of the crash in the town of Bologoye, about 195 miles northwest of Moscow, Soviet media said.
Tass said children were among those who died when the Aurora Express left the tracks at 6.34 p.m. The fire started when fuel canisters in the restaurant car split open and ignited.
A government commission investigating the accident found that a railway monitoring car had discovered "deviations" at the site of the accident, including uneven track, Tass said.
Orders had been issued to limit speed on the affected section to 36 m.p.h.
"Yet the officials of the Bologoye section of the track did not forward that warning, and trains continued running at a high speed on the faulty section of the track," the report said.
Tass said the Aurora was traveling at 90 m.p.h. when it left the tracks halfway along one of the country's most heavily traveled lines between Moscow and Leningrad.
Fire Engulfed Train
The fire "instantly spread to neighboring cars, engulfing nearly the entire train," Tass said. It took four hours to put out the blaze.
Soviet television reported the accident on Wednesday evening, but without pictures.
A Soviet transport official, Boris Petrov, told Soviet radio that all 15 cars of the train derailed. He said there were about 800 people on the train.
Information on the identities or nationalities of the dead and injured was not immediately available. The U.S. Embassy said it was told no Americans were on board. Other Western embassies in Moscow had no information.
The top Soviet leadership sent condolences to the families of the dead, Tass said.