Monday, August 11, 2008

Peace Train, Love Train Collide; Hundreds Feared Dead

TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN - Tragedy struck in the early hours of August 11, when two trains collided on the Trans-Asian Railway System. The eastbound Love Train was believed to be headed for China when it encountered a rail defect at 3:49 a.m. local time, causing the engine to jump the track to the left, directly onto the neighboring railway. The jump caused 17 of the train's passenger cars to also leave the track and pile up, and it is unknown how many casualties were caused by the initial crash.

Mere seconds later, the westbound Peace Train came gliding, its conductor unable to brake the train before the collision. The engine struck the Love Train wreckage, lifting up into the air and causing the passenger cars to slam into the other train at an estimated 195 Kilometers per hour.

Of the 936 combined passengers, only 17 have been confirmed as survivors. So far, 716 bodies have been recovered, though rescue workers are pessimistic about the chances of finding more survivors amidst the burning twisted wreckage.

"It was horrible," said Primad Patel, 42, a passenger aboard the Love Train who sustained a broken wrist, severe lacerations on his legs, and second degree burns to his legs and chest. "We departed from Egypt, and had just left our stop in Russia. Everyone had joined hands, when suddenly there was a horrific screeching noise, and then everything was flipping over. The car I was in had ended up atop the wreckage of another car, facing sideways, so I was able to see down the track through a shattered window. Out of the edge of darkness, there rode the Peace Train. It was horrible... simply horrible," Patel said, before breaking down into racking sobs.

"I cannot believe this," cried Chezmal Bhanti, brother of Senval Phanti, 21, a passenger aboard the Love Train who was headed to China to attend the closing ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. "I told him 'please don't miss this train at the station, 'cause if you miss it, I feel sorry, sorry for you'. Oh, how could I have been so foolish?"

The Peace Train sustained more damage, experts are saying, as they struck a stationary object, whereas the Love Train was able to come to a slower, if still catastrophic, stop. All 17 of the survivors were aboard the Love Train.

"It is a dark day," Turpan Stationmaster X'ing Fong Xiu said. "The passengers got their bags together, went and brought their friends too, and jumped aboard the Peace Train. Little did they know they would never see their loved ones again."

"It will haunt my dreams forever," said Chad Durtz, 51, a tourist who was headed East on the Love Train. "I managed to crawl out of the wreckage, but we could see it getting closer. The Peace Train was sounding louder, and then it plowed through the Love Train. My wife... oh God, Esther..."

"This is a horrible tragedy," O'Jays lead singer Eddie Levert was quoted as saying. "We feel that in light of this catastrophe, people all over the world should join hands. Actually, maybe that's not such a good idea, as that's what started this in the first place."

Cat Stevens could not be reached for comment.