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Train wreck: dozens of railway cars block tracks in Orizaba. Train wreck: dozens of railway cars block tracks in Orizaba.

Train operator claims sabotage by thieves caused huge pileup in Veracruz

39 cars, 4 locomotives affected after one train plows into another in Orizaba

A train wreck in Veracruz Saturday was caused by sabotage and not human error as was originally suggested, according to rail operator Grupo México. But the state governor is not convinced by the claim.

At 3:35am on May 19 the brakes failed on a Ferrosur freight train that was transporting grain from the port of Veracruz to Puebla, resulting in a collision with a stationary freight train in Orizaba that left seven people injured.

A total of 39 rail cars and four locomotives were either damaged or derailed in the incident and five homes located next to the tracks also sustained damage.

Grupo México, whose rail transport division Ferromex-Ferrosur is Mexico’s largest rail operator, ruled out any possibility that the accident could have been caused by human error because all trains that operate in Mexico are centrally controlled from Guadalajara, making it technologically impossible for them to lose control.

Instead it charged that criminals had tampered with the train’s brakes in an attempt to cause it to derail so they could steal its freight.

The company underscored that the nation’s trains and tracks are subject to constant reviews in order to receive the certification they need to continue operating.

Grupo México also said that other trains carrying 300,000 tonnes of freight — including cars, chemicals and agricultural products — have been left stranded due to the incident. The affected stretch of railroad is not expected to reopen until Wednesday.

Following Saturday’s incident, the president of the Confederation of Industrial Chambers (Concamin) said that the increased frequency with which attacks on trains are occurring poses a risk to people who live near railroads, harms the economy and could result in the cancelation of freight services.

“The seventh act of railroad sabotage against just one company, in just three weeks and in one state — Veracruz — occurred today,” Francisco Cervantes Díaz said.

Data gathered by the Rail Transport Regulatory Agency (ARTF) showed that train robberies soared by 476% between the first and last quarters of 2017.

“Authorities need to say enough’s enough about this situation . . . it seems to be out of control,” Cervantes added.

A jumble of damaged railway cars after Saturday's accident.
A jumble of damaged railway cars after Saturday’s accident.

He also said he will ensure that the presidential candidates take notice of the growing problem because “nobody should be indifferent in the face of a risk of this magnitude.”

In response to Grupo México’s claim, Veracruz Governor Miguel Ángel Yunes criticized the company for asserting that the accident was caused by sabotage before an expert’s report has been completed.

“Until now, the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) doesn’t have any complaint filed by Ferrosur. It seems that the company provided unsubstantiated information, it didn’t wait for an expert’s report to be prepared,” he told a press conference yesterday.

“To us, it seems completely improper to talk about sabotage when at this time there is no evidence that that kind of act occurred [and] the reason for the crash is not really known,” Yunes said.

The governor added that an official investigation into the incident is under way and a report will be submitted in the coming days.

“If it wasn’t sabotage, we will energetically call on the company Ferrosur to not state opinions again about incidents of this nature without having evidence [and] the certainty that it was really sabotage [and not] an accident,” Yunes said.

Despite statistics showing that more train robberies occurred in Veracruz in 2017 than any other state, the governor said the crime is not being committed there, charging that it is a problem that exclusively affects the neighboring state of Puebla.

Source: Milenio (sp), Noticieros Televisa (sp)

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