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45 injured in northwest Cambodia as train hits bus at crossing without barrier

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Forty-five people were injured, five of them critically, when a train crashed into the side of a bus at a rail crossing in northwestern Cambodia Friday, police said.

Gen. Sar Theng, the police chief for Pursat province, said the crash in Krakor district occurred around 11 a.m. when the bus attempted to cross the tracks even though the oncoming train had loudly sounded its horn as it approached.

The train hit the middle of the bus, pushing it several meters (yards), he said. The bus driver fled, leaving behind the injured passengers, who were aided by police and villagers and taken to hospitals for treatment, he added.

Sar Theng said there used to be a barrier at the crossing but it had broken and had not yet been replaced. He said there is a large sign posted on the road warning that there is a railroad crossing ahead and urging drivers to proceed slowly.

It is not unusual for rail crossings in Cambodia to lack safety barriers.

Sar Theng said all the bus passengers were Cambodians who had reportedly hired the vehicle for a visit to a mountain nature resort.

“The incident would not have happened if the driver was driving responsibly,” he said, noting that when the train is approaching populated areas and road junctions, its engineer will sound his horn to alert people to stay away from the tracks. The accident was the fault of the driver for ignoring the horn, he said.

According to reports from Cambodia’s national police and Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, nearly 1,600 people died in road accidents last year.