'Six dead' as France train derails
A train carrying hundreds of passengers derailed and crashed into a station outside Paris on the eve of a major holiday weekend, killing at least six people and injuring dozens more, including nine who are in a critical condition.
The crash at Bretigny-sur-Orge station was the deadliest in France in years and president Francois Hollande abandoned plans in the capital to visit the scene.
Some cars slid towards the station, crushing part of the metallic roof over the platform. Images from the scene on French television showed gnarled metal and shards on the platform, and debris from the crash clogging the stairwell leading beneath the platform.
"The train was unrecognisable. There was nothing but metal scraps," witness Ben Khelifa, 20, said. His commuter train was on the adjacent track. "The train just collapsed, just like that, on its side... There was blood," Mr Khelifa said. He added that he was one of a number of passengers in the adjacent train that went to help pull trapped survivors out of the wreckage. "People were screaming, people were asking where their children were," he said.
Another witness, Bazgua El Mehdi, 19, told Le Parisien newspaper: "I heard a loud noise. A cloud of sand covered everything. Then the dust dissipated. I thought it was a freight train, but then we saw the first casualties... Many passengers on the (train) were crying."
It was unclear whether all the casualties were inside the train, or whether some had been on the platform, or how fast the train was travelling. The head of the SNCF rail authority, Guillaume Pepy, called it a "catastrophe". The cause of the crash was under investigation.
The train's third and fourth cars initially derailed, which then knocked the other cars off the track, Mr Pepy said. "Some cars simply derailed, others are leaning, others fell over."
The SNCF said the train was carrying about 385 passengers when it derailed at 5.15pm local time about 12 miles south of Paris. The train was heading from Paris to Limoges, a 250-mile trip.
The accident came as France is preparing to celebrate its most important national holiday, Bastille Day, on Sunday and as masses of holidaymakers are heading out of Paris and other big cities to see family or on summer holiday.
All trains from Paris' Gare d'Austerlitz were suspended after the accident. A passenger speaking on France's BFM television said the train was going at a normal speed and was not meant to stop at Bretigny-sur-Orge.