At least seven dead after high-speed train derails
At least seven people are feared dead and many more injured after a packed rush-hour train derailed at high speed at a Paris commuter station.
The inter-city train crashed around 5.15pm yesterday in the suburb of Bretigny-sur-Orge, about 26km south of the French capital. It was heading for Limoges in central France.
Pictures from the scene showed that the train had ploughed into the commuter station at Bretigny, with its carriages partly demolishing a platform.
The train was travelling at between 120-140kmph. While a number of those injured were in the coaches, others were hurt standing on the platform.
Some of the injured were being treated last night in a field hospital within the station. The seriously injured, who were either crushed, electrocuted or seriously burned, were sent to Paris hospitals.
"The train arrived at the station at high speed," said one police source.
"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."
Guillaume Pepy, head of the rail operator SNCF, said that six coaches had derailed – the third and fourth came off the rails and the following four followed suit. The train is understood to have been carrying around 385 passengers.
"Some cars simply derailed, others are leaning, others fell over," he said.
Manuel Valls, the French interior minister, said: "The death toll is evolving constantly at this point and unfortunately it will probably rise.
"At this stage there are seven people dead, several dozen wounded and some of them are serious."
Francois Hollande, the French president, was on his way to the crash site last night.
Witnesses spoke of a chaotic aftermath as passengers spilled out, with children running around trying to find their parents.
One passenger, who identified himself only as Laurent, told French radio: "I was in the first coach just behind the locomotive. We got a big, big shock and all held on to our seats. It lasted around 10 to 15 seconds. There were big jolts and smoke everywhere.
"It seems there were no injured people in the first three coaches, but I spoke to a man who told me he had a dead person next to him. Lots of people were bleeding near me, and lots of people were crying."
Englishman Graham Hope suffered a head injury. He said: "The train just started to rock up and down like a bucking bronco and the next thing we hit the station itself.
"The train bounced up and down dramatically for several seconds," he said.
He added the train, "split in two" and then "buckled".
John Paul Martial, who lives opposite the station, said: "I heard like a big loud noise, coupled with a great shock, like an earthquake.
"When I looked, there was a huge plume of smoke billowing above the rails."
The crash happened as many French were heading away from Paris for a holiday weekend – tomorrow is Bastille Day. (© Daily Telegraph, London)