A fire broke out Tuesday morning on a passenger train near Kibbutz Yakum, leaving at least 121 people injured. Five passengers sustained moderate injuries, while the rest suffered light wounds from cuts, bruises and smoke inhalation. MDA declared a multi-casualty incident.
Most passengers managed to leave the train themselves. Four firefighting teams and many MDA crew rushed to assist. Witnesses say the fire began in the rear carriages at about 9:20 am, during the journey from Nahariya to Tel Aviv.
Israel Railways said it appears the fire started in the rear engine, apparently due to an electrical short. The company said its representatives were at the scene, and that buses had been ordered to evacuate passengers.
"Suddenly we heard a loud explosion and there was a sharp smell throughout the train," one passenger told Ynet. "The doors opened and we all fled in panic."
"There was an explosion in the third carriage from the end, and it melted completely," said Ofer Levi, a Haifa resident who was sitting in the aft carriage. "All the diesel leaked onto the track and burned intensively."
A former employee of Israel Railways told Ynet that the driver has no way of knowing if a fire breaks out in one of the carriages. "He has no warning system to tell him," he said, suggesting that the driver stopped the train when he heard the shouts of the passengers. "They began shouting there was a fire, otherwise he had no way of knowing."
Smoke rises from the train (Photo: Ilan Arad)
"People were frightened," another passenger said. "They went to the forward carriages, shouting, some broke the windows and jumped out."
He said a thick smoke filled the train. "Some people asked if anyone was trapped, but it seems nobody was. There wasn't any explosion but there is a lot of fear. There is a real fire, the carriage is giving off a thick smoke."
"There was a kind of boom," another passenger told Ynet. "I thought the doors had opened. Some flew into the train then the carriage began burning… I couldn't breathe, I fell, I was dizzy."
Thick smoke rises from the carriage.
Another said he heard shots, apparently the attempts of a soldier to open the doors. Ifat, who works at the Ronit Farm nearby, also heard shots. "We heard explosions like gunshots and we went outside," she said. "We saw an entire carriage going up in flames. There was thick smoke."
Last month a major disaster was narrowly averted when a train collided with a vehicle on the tracks in the same area, near Kibbutz Shefayim. A woman in the vehicle was lightly injured.
The last train disaster occurred some five months ago, in which seven members of the Bernstein family were killed when a train collided with a minibus near Kiryat Gat.
Shahar Haselkorn and Aviel Magnezi contributed to this report.