Friday, 12 July 2013

Train crash near Paris: 'at least seven dead'

The inter-city train crashed around 5.15pm local time on Friday in the suburb of Brétigny-sur-Orge, around 16 miles south of the French capital. It was heading for the city of Limoges in west-central France.

Pictures from the scene showed that the train had ploughed into the commuter station at Brétigny, with its carriages partly demolishing a platform.

While a number of those injured were in the coaches, others were hurt standing on the platform struck by the train. Some injured are being treated in a field hospital within the station. The seriously injured, who have been either crushed or electrocuted, or seriously burned, have been 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 national rail operator SNCF, said that six coaches had derailed - the third, 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.

The train was travelling between 75-87mph (120-140kmh)

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 site.

Eyewitnesses to the crash 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 onto 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 crying.”

Englishman Graham Hope suffered a head injury, saying: “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 the train “split in two” and then “buckled”. “When I looked, there was a huge plume of smoke billowing above the rails. Bazgua El Mehdi, 19, was on a nearby train at Bretigny station at the time of the crash.

“I heard a loud noise. A cloud of sand covered everything,” he said. “I saw a man barely conscious, with an open head wound. Many had suffered cuts. Lots of train passengers were stuck. A SNCF agent told me that a man was cut in two.”

The crash happened as many French were heading away from Paris for a holiday weekend - this Sunday is Bastille Day. The train served a regional service that travels more slowly than France’s TGV express trains. It apparently veered off the track as it pulled into the station at the town of Bretigny, although eyewitnesses claimed it was travelling unusually fast as it approached.

One passenger told France’s BFM television that the train was not meant to stop at Bretigny. “Most of the people who suffered minor injuries have been taken care of,” said Michel Pouzol, a local official. “We are going to have to empty the carriages completely to see if there are victims or not.”

All trains from Paris’ Gare d’Austerlitz station were suspended after the accident.

Friday 12 July 2013


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