herald

Monday 26 September 2016

14 migrants killed in train accident

Fourteen migrants were hit by a train and killed in central Macedonia yesterday as they walked through a canyon along a Balkan route for migrants trying to reach western Europe.

The accident happened near the city of Veles. Rescue efforts were hampered by difficult terrain Macedonia's state prosecutor said it appeared that most of the group were from Somalia and Afghanistan.

Migrants fleeing war, poverty and repression in the Middle East and Africa are increasingly turning to the Balkans as a land route to western Europe, longer but deemed safer than trying by boat across the Mediterranean.

Up to 900 went down on a single boat on Sunday off the coast of Libya, a major staging point for migrants heading for Europe.

The Macedonian prosecutor confirmed the 14 deaths and said rescue services found no injured migrants at the site, an area called Pcinja north of Veles and near the Vardar river.

Local media reported that the group numbered around 50. They were hit by an international train travelling from the southern Macedonian border town of Gevgelija to the Serbian capital, Belgrade, the same route taken by migrants trying to get from Greece to Hungary.

"The driver saw a large group, dozens of people," the prosecutor said in a statement.

"At that moment, he took action to stop the train and engage the siren, at which point some people left the tracks. The train was unable to stop before hitting and running over some of them." (Reporting by Kole Casule; Writing by Matt Robinson; editing by Dominic Evans)

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