AT least seven people were killed and dozens injured on Friday after a speeding train derailed at a station in the southern suburbs of Paris
AT least seven people were killed and dozens injured on Friday after a speeding train derailed at a station in the southern suburbs of Paris, officials said.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls gave an initial toll of seven dead and said there were "dozens of injured" following the accident at the Bretigny-sur-Orge station involving a train heading from Paris to the west-central city of Limoges.
Many passengers were believed to be trapped inside wrecked carriages that were lying on their sides after the accident.
"The toll at this stage is constantly evolving and will be heavier," Valls told reporters in Nimes.
The local prefect's office said at least six people had died and 12 been injured, including nine in a serious condition.
A picture shows a derailed wagon on the site of a train accident in the railway station of Bretigny-sur-Orge. AFP Photo
The head of the SNCF national railway, Guillaume Pepy, told reporters at the scene that six carriages had derailed during the accident. The train's third and fourth carriages derailed first and the others followed, he said.
A clearly emotional Pepy expressed the rail company's "solidarity with the victims and their families".
"Rail catastrophes are something that upset everyone and all of those who are committed to our national rail service," he said.
"We don't yet know the reasons for this derailment," Pepy added.
Seven passengers have so far been confirmed dead from the incident. AFP Photo
President Francois Hollande had arrived at the scene of the accident, an AFP reporter said, with his office saying he wanted "to see the extent of the tragedy and support emergency services."
Passenger Marc Cheutin, 57, told AFP he had to "step over a decapitated person" to exit the carriage he had been travelling in.
"Shortly after departure, just as I was getting into my book, we felt a first shock that shook the carriage I was in.... Then there was a second shock and the carriage lifted up, then a third and a fourth and the carriage went over on its side," he said.
The prefect's office said a "red alert" plan had been activated following the accident, which officials said happened at 5:14 pm (1514 GMT), minutes after the intercity train left the Paris-Austerlitz station.
"The train arrived at the station at high speed. It split in two for an unknown reason. Part of the train continued to roll while the other was left on its side on the platform," a police source told AFP.
Rescue workers arrive on the site of a train accident. AFP Photo
"It was not a collision and it was not a problem with the speed," a source with the SNCF told AFP.
The train normally travels through the station at a speed of about 150 kilometres per hour (90 miles per hour), officials said.
Bretigny Mayor Bernard Decaux told newspaper Le Parisien there was chaos after the accident.
"Everyone is running in every direction, there is panic," he said. "It is an apocalyptic scene. We are trying to organise things."
An ambulance worker stands in a cordonned-off area near a man with a blood-splattered shirt, on the site of a train accident in the railway station of Bretigny-sur-Orge near Paris. AFP Photo
Dozens of emergency and police vehicles had arrived at the scene and a security cordon was set up around the station, an AFP reporter said.
Rescue helicopters were deployed and all Paris region hospitals were put on alert to deal with the injured, officials said.
Photographs of the accident posted on social networks showed a train carriage that had apparently derailed and risen onto the platform, tearing down a section of the station's roof as it moved forward.
The accident occurred as many in France were departing for the start of their summer holidays. Travel to and from the Austerlitz station in Paris had been temporarily suspended.
The derailment was France's worst rail accident since an SNCF commuter train crashed into a stationary train at Paris's Gare de Lyon terminal in 1988, leaving 56 dead.
7 dead, dozens injured in derailment near Paris