A train in central Buenos Aires strikes a boxcar on the track, injuring dozens

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — At least 90 people were injured in Argentina's capital when a passenger train struck an empty boxcar on the tracks and derailed Friday, authorities said, a rare collision that fueled questions about basic safety.

The train was on its way from Buenos Aires to the northern suburbs when it derailed around 10:30 a.m. on a bridge in the trendy neighborhood of Palermo, safety officials said.

While it was not immediately clear why the idled boxcar had been on the bridge, Argentina's railway union said several meters (yards) of copper cable used to carry power along the tracks had been stolen from the railway, disabling the signaling system intended to prevent such accidents.

Union leaders fiercely opposed to libertarian President Javier Milei's economic austerity blamed the government for its failure to invest in public infrastructure.

“We have been demanding for 10 days that the stolen signaling cables be repaired," rail union leader Omar Maturano told the country's independent Radio Con Vos station. “The government said there was no money for spare parts.”

Prosecutors said they were investigating.

“There is not enough information about the mechanics of this accident,” Buenos Aires Mayor Jorge Macri said from the crash site where he praised the swift evacuation of victims.

Dozens of injured were treated at the scene and 30 people taken to hospitals in moderate to serious condition, at least two by helicopter with chest trauma and broken bones.

Alberto Crescenti, director of the city's emergency service, said rescuers with police dogs had helped 90 people trapped in the derailed train, lowering some by rope from the highway overpass scattered with twisted metal and shattered glass.

Dazed passengers staggering out of the derailed boxcars told local media the train had stopped on the bridge for several minutes before starting up again and slamming violently into the other train, jolting passengers and veering off the rails in a jumble of sparks and smoke.

Officials at the Argentine rail authority, Trenes Argentinos, said service on the popular rail line had been suspended, complicating travel for many commuters.

The collision brought increased scrutiny to rail safety in Argentina, where a string of train crashes from 2012-2014 left over 50 people dead and hundreds injured. It emerged at the time that outdated infrastructure, delays and human error had left the railway system vulnerable to crashes, prompting the government to invest in new safety and braking systems.

With Argentina's economy spiraling and anti-government protests gripping the streets, the crash quickly spawned contradictory narratives, with both government officials and leftist union leaders using the incident to further their agendas.

“The rail company has been totally degraded because there's no budget," said Maturano, from the rail union.

President Milei reposted comments on social media blaming his left-leaning predecessors for neglecting public infrastructure and running up a massive budget deficit.

In the midst of Argentina's worst economic crisis in two decades, police have repeatedly reported would-be cable thieves being electrocuted in the act. Those who succeed wreak havoc on the rail system in stealing metal to sell to scrapyards, where local media says the going rate is about $7 a kilogram ($3.18 a pound).

The Argentine website Infobae in February called copper cable theft “a trendy crime for the crisis.”