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Freight train derailed by landslide on South Island’s West Coast, New Zealand

Freight train derailed by landslide on South Island's West Coast, New Zealand

A freight train operated by KiwiRail found itself engulfed by a landslide on the South Island’s West Coast near Hawks Crag in the early hours of Monday, October 16, 2023. The incident, which led to a minor derailment, saw the lone engineer on board escaping without any injury.

The event took place at around 03:00 LT on October 16, as the coal freight train, en route from Stillwater to Ngakawau, became entrapped within a tunnel due to a deluge of mud, debris, and boulders from the adjacent hillside. The pictures illustrating the scene depict the extent of the landslide with boulders the size of trucks covering the tunnel’s roof.

According to KiwiRail Executive General Manager Paul Ashton, the deluge from the hill was so extensive that it completely obscured the tunnel portal where the train was located. Following the incident, the train, although operating at a slow speed, collided with the debris, resulting in a minor derailment of the locomotive. Fortunately, the sole individual aboard, an engineer, managed to evade any harm.

The location of the incident, Buller Gorge, near Hawks Crag, is notably a pivotal route for one of KiwiRail’s key customers involved in the export of coal. The derailment and subsequent entrapment of the train have temporarily halted the movements along this line.

Due to the precarious nature of the area post-landslide, the immediate vicinity around the derailment has been deemed hazardous. KiwiRail, alongside geotechnical teams, is working on stabilizing the region before initiating the recovery of the stranded locomotive. The foremost concern is to ensure the absolute safety of the rescue and recovery personnel.

Because the ground is still unstable, people are not allowed to enter the area for now. Drones are being used to check how much damage has been done, which will help a lot in making a detailed plan to fix everything. The timeline for the completion of the recovery operations remains indeterminate as KiwiRail continues to assess the situation.

YouTube video

References:

1 Images of freight train buried by landslide on the South Island’s West Coast revealed – Newshub – October 18, 2023

Featured image credit: Geof Mackley (stillshot)

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