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Turkey train crash: Speed blamed

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A train traveling from Istanbul to Ankara derails

PAMUKOVA, Turkey (CNN) -- The train that derailed Thursday night east of Istanbul was traveling faster than it should have been, the Turkish transportation minister says.

The train was traveling at 73 mph (118 kph) instead of the 50 mph (80 kph) set for the stretch of track it was on, Binali Yildirim said Friday.

But when asked about the definite cause of the wreck, he said, "We don't know."

The derailment killed 36 people and injured 81.

Yildirim dismissed the notion of suspending the Istanbul-Ankara train service until an investigation into the crash is complete, and said service will resume as soon as the tracks are cleared and repaired.

Accelerated train service on the line began in June, cutting the time of the commute between Ankara and Istanbul from seven to five hours.

Yildirim said that during the preparation for the accelerated trains all precautions were taken and all the concerns that were raised were taken under consideration. After lengthy studies the railroad tracks were deemed fit to sustain accelerated speeds, he said.

At the site of the wreck, one woman remained missing. Rescue teams searched the wreckage with cadaver-sniffing dogs, to no avail.

The wreck caused five cars to topple; three had been turned upright by mid-morning.

The train's two engineers have been detained for questioning.

The train derailed about 7:45 p.m., according to the office of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was en route to Ankara from Istanbul when it left the tracks near the town of Pamukova, about 115 miles from Istanbul.

Erdogan, who attended a celebration for the new express service between largest city and its capital when it went on line in June, visited the crash site Thursday night. He offered his condolences and said an investigation was under way.

"We don't know the exact reasons yet. They are searching if there are any technical problems," Erdogan said.

The new service was part of a program by Erdogan to improve and modernize Turkey's railways.

The train, with 234 passengers and nine crew members on board, left Istanbul about 6 p.m. at an initial speed of 95 mph, according to Muammer Turker, a spokesman for the railroad company in Ankara. But had slowed down at the time of the accident, the spokesman said.

One male passenger, a longtime traveler along the route, told Turkish broadcaster NTV that he was in the fourth car when the train began to shake violently, leaned left, then lurched right and left the tracks. He said the train had shaken with unusual intensity earlier in the trip, at times to the point he could not stand.

--CNN Correspondent Alessio Vinci and CNNTurk Correspondents Aysegul Savur, Aysen Atasir and Cinar Oksay contributed to this story.

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