Express train derails in Ethiopia, killing an estimated 400 people


Addis Ababa railway station – Ethiopia. Source:

Sunday, 13 January 1985

An express train carrying seven cars and an estimated one thousand people destined for Addis Ababa, derailed when it reached a curve 125 miles east of the capital. . It was suspected that the train engineer failed to reduce speed at reaching the curve which resulted in the train derailing and plunging into a ravine. About 400 people died and about 500 were injured in the accident.

The accident occurred in the town of Awash which is located above a ravine on the Awash River. Seven of the train’s coaches plummeted into the ravine. The Ethiopian Red Cross played a crucial role in rescuing the injured. The engineer of the train was arrested for failing to reduce speed on approaching a curve.

The funeral of 282 of the victims was held in Awash while bodies of the rest of the victims were said to have been claimed by relatives. The exact number of victims who lost their lives in the accident while estimated to be around 400, was never confirmed. It is the worst train disaster ever in Africa.

• Associated Press (1985) ‘418 reported dead,559 injured in Ethiopian train derailment’ From: The Blade (14 January 1985) [online] Available at: [Accessed on 6 December 2011]
• Associated Press (1985) ‘
392 Killed in Ethiopia Train Plunge: Express Derailed off Bridge into Ravine; 373 Injured’ From: Los Angeles Times (15 January 1985) [online] Available at: [Accessed on 6 December 2011]

Last updated : 19-Dec-2013

This article was produced by South African History Online on 03-Jan-2012

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