KIEV // At least 41 people were killed when a goods locomotive hit a commuter bus at a railway crossing in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday, the Emergencies Ministry said.
The bus, carrying 49 people in all, was thrust 30 metres along the track near the small industrial town of Marhanets near Dnipropetrovsk at around 9 am. The Emergencies Ministry said 41 people, two of them children, had died, but officials said the toll could rise further because many survivors were badly injured.
President Viktor Yanukovich, who was in the region at the time, said Ukraine needed to strengthen its laws related to the responsibility of drivers of public transport.
Transport Minister Kostyantyn Yefimenko was quoted by Ukrainski Novini news agency as saying the driver had at first stopped the bus and got out. Quoting survivors, he said the driver then got into the bus and drove "right in front of the locomotive".
"Surviving passengers said they signalled to the driver that alarm lights were flashing and that he should not go forward," said Yefimenko. The crumpled hulk of the bus was still trapped under the front of the locomotive several hours after the accident.
Television footage showed the bodies of victims laid out under blankets alongside the track. Yanukovich declared Wednesday a day of national mourning.
"A tragic event occurred this morning ... According to preliminary data, about 40 people have been killed," Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said at the start of a cabinet meeting. Ukrainian police said in a statement that the bus, carrying 49 passengers and a driver, was travelling from a hospital in Marhanets to a nearby town, Gorodishche.
Thirty-eight of those who were killed died at the scene of the crash. Nine people were being treated for injuries in hospital.