PARIS: A packed passenger train derailed and crashed into a station outside Paris Friday, leaving at least seven people believed dead and injuring dozens on the eve of a major holiday weekend, authorities said.
The crash at Bretigny-sur-Orge’s station was the deadliest in France in years and hit on the eve of a major holiday weekend. Some cars slid toward the station itself, crushing part of the metallic roof over the platform.
Images from the scene shown on French television showed gnarled metal and shards on the platform, and debris from the crash clogging the stairwell leading beneath the platform.
Officials didn’t comment on reports that passengers may still be trapped on the train. It was unclear whether all the casualties were inside the train, or whether some had been on the platform, or how fast it was traveling.
Head of the SNCF rail authority Guillaume Pepy called it a “catastrophe.”
The cause of the crash was under investigation. Two train cars, No. 3 and No. 4, initially derailed, then knocked the other cars off the track, Pepy said.
“Some cars simply derailed, others are leaning, others fell over,” he said.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls said at least seven people were believed dead and several dozen injured, but added that the casualty toll was “in constant evolution.”
The SNCF said the train was carrying about 385 passengers when it derailed Friday evening at 5:15 p.m. and crashed into the station at Bretigny-sur-Orge, about 20 kilometers south of Paris.
The train was headed from Paris to Limoges, a 400-kilometer journey and was about 20 minutes into what would have been a three-hour journey.
The accident came as France is preparing to celebrate its most important national holiday, Bastille Day, Sunday, and as masses of vacationers are heading out of Paris and other big cities to see family or on summer vacation.
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 wasn’t meant to stop at Bretigny-sur-Orge. He described children unattended in the chaotic aftermath.
He said there were swarms of emergency workers at the scene