KOTA KINABALU: A huge explosion ripped through a commuter train with 200 passengers after it collided with a fuel tanker at an ``unmanned'' railway crossing near a petrol station in Kepayan here. At least 12 people were seriously injured.
Most passengers scrambled out from the rear driver's compartments as they fled the inferno that spread almost immediately following the impact between the four carriages and the Shell tanker.
But 34 of the 200 passengers could not be traced though police have ascertained, as of 7.45pm, that no one else was inside the wrecked carriages.
However, a detailed search is being carried by police, firemen and Sabah Railway staff.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said the train impacted the tank section of the lorry carrying some 27,000litres of petrol as it was heading into the Shell station to deliver the fuel.
Upon impact, the first carriage derailed while the second unit landed atop the tanker that exploded at the crossing which Sabah Railways director Mohd Zin Mohd Said had classified as ``illegal.''
Hamza said at 7.45pm that there were no deaths ``as yet'' and they have detained the driver of the oil tanker for questioning while the train driver Ali Ramli, 50, escaped injuries.
Ambulances carrying the injured to the hospital were trapped in a massive traffic snarl due to motorists slowing down or stopping indiscriminately to watch the accident and the situation was further aggravated by a heavy thunderstorm.
The colonial railway is the only commercial rail line in Borneo Island that operates services from Kota Kinabalu to west coast towns and interior Tenom.
``This is the worst mishap in our history,'' said Mohd Zin.