General view of the derailment of the cargo train called 'The Beast' in Huimanguillo, in the state of Tabasco, Mexico.
A freight train derailed in a remote area of the Mexican state of Tabasco early Sunday, killing at least five people and injuring some 17 others, according to officials.
Of the injured, 16 people were seriously hurt, according to a tweet from Luis Felipe Puente, national coordinator for Mexico’s Civil Protection branch of the Secretariat of the Interior.
Local media reports said the death toll could be as high as 50, but that figure was not immediately confirmed by Mexican authorities.
The freight train, known as “La Bestia” — “The Beast” — crisscrosses Mexico from south to north. Migrants, primarily Central Americans, seeking illegal passage to the United States often jump aboard the train under the cover of darkness.
The train company and emergency crews were dispatching two cranes to help search for an undetermined number of victims trapped among the eight cars of the derailed train, officials told The Associated Press.
Federal and state authorities were at the scene, according to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who tweeted his sympathies Sunday afternoon.
“My condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in this accident,” the tweet said.
The derailment reportedly occurred in a rural area near Huimanguillo in the southeastern state of Tabasco around 3am local time (4am ET) Sunday, near the border with the Mexican state of Veracruz, which is difficult to reach by vehicle.
At least 250 migrants were apparently on the train traveling north from the Guatemala border, Tabasco state Civil Protection chief Cesar Burelo Burelo told the AP.
All of the dead are non-Mexican and from different Central American nations, officials said.
The locomotive and the first car apparently did not overturn in the accident, and were later used to transport victims to the nearest medical facility in Veracruz, according to the AP.
Hard rainfall had evidently loosened the earth under the tracks and shifted the rails, officials told the AP.
Burelo told the AP eight cars had derailed, but authorities have yet to determine a cause.
Soldiers, marines and civilian emergency workers were attempting to enter the area, which ambulances could not access, the Red Cross told the AP. Officials were working to set up air or water links to the scene of the fatal derailment.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.
First published August 25 2013, 8:40 AM