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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Train Hits Bus, Kills Passengers In Far East

Freight cars collided with a crowded passenger bus near the far eastern city of Khabarovsk on Monday, killing at least 13 people and injuring 26.

The Ikarus passenger bus was sliced in half when three runaway freight cars loaded with construction materials plowed into it as it moved over a railroad crossing in the village of Beryozovka just before 7 p.m.

Rescue workers worked long into the night, attempting to identify dismembered corpses and body parts that were scattered as far as 50 meters.

"We don't know exactly how many people are dead yet," Alexander Tushin, a spokesman for the Far East branch of the Emergency Situations Ministry, said Monday evening. "Body parts are scattered around the scene of the accident and we are working to identify them."

Twenty-seven body parts were found at the scene, indicating that as many as 13 people may be dead, he said.

Reuters reported late Monday that 22 people had been killed.

The bus was full with people commuting home to the village from work in the city, and it is thought that two children were among the dead.

"It was a surreal scene," Tushin said of the crash site. "One of complete chaos."

A fleet of 28 ambulances assisted the injured, and 26 people were hospitalized. Of these, 21 victims remain in serious condition, Tushin said.

Viktor Ishayev, the governor of the Khabarovsk region, visited the crash site and promised a full criminal investigation.

Tushin said it was too early to determine exactly what caused the accident, but added that a team of investigators were working around the clock to find out who was responsible.

According to preliminary reports from the ministry, however, the freight cars appear to have been rolling out of control down a section of the track toward the railroad crossing.

The crossing was unmanned and was not equipped with a barrier or warning signals, Tushin said. The bus driver appears not to have noticed the wagons, since they were not illuminated by safety lights, as required by law.

Accidents on unmanned crossings are not uncommon in Russia.

In one of the worst incidents in recent years, 21 schoolchildren were killed when a locomotive struck a school bus at a level crossing just outside the southern Russian city of Rostov in 1996.

The daughter of President Boris Yeltsin, Tatyana Dyachenko, was dispatched to the region to offer condolences to the bereaved on behalf of her father.

The accident was later found to be the fault of both drivers. The train driver refused to heed a signal indicating a vehicle was crossing the track, and the bus driver had had no training and had worked the route for only 20 days.