AT LEAST seven people were killed and dozens more injured when a French intercity train derailed at a station near Paris on Friday evening.
Officials in France anticipated the number of people killed at Bretigny-sur-Orge was likely to rise as a result of the serious injuries many passengers were being treated for.
It was reported that some passengers were trapped in four of the train’s carriages.
Interior minister Manuel Valls 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 injured and some of them are serious.”
Hospitals in Paris were on emergency alert to treat serious injuries, including the effects of electric shocks.
The train, which provided a regional service that travels more slowly than France’s much vaunted TGV express trains, is understood to have veered off the track as it pulled into the station at Bretigny.
It was en route from Paris to the city of Limoges when the incident happened yesterday at 4:15pm.
Passengers later described how the train had been travelling “unusually fast” as it approached the station.
Television images showed one of the carriages smashed against a platform at Bretigny-sur-Orge, which is 16 miles south of Paris.
The SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français) national rail authority said the train was carrying some 385 passengers when it derailed.
Mayor of Bretigny Bernard Decaux said: “Three carriages were tangled up one behind the other” with a fourth lying on its side.
He added: “I have no idea of the number of casualties. I’ve just been told it risks being very heavy.
“Everyone was running in all directions. It was panic. It was an apocalyptic sight.”
SNCF official Jean-Paul Boulet said four carriages piled up after the train derailed.
A passenger speaking on France’s BFM television service said the train was not due to stop at Bretigny.
It emerged that two carriages, numbers three and four, were the first to derail. They knocked at least two others off the track. SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy said. “Some cars simply derailed, others are leaning, others fell over.”
All trains from Paris’s Gare d’Austerlitz were suspended for several hours after the incident.
Michael Lesaunier, who owns a cafe beside the busy suburban station, told local media outlet iTele: “The train approached very, very fast, knocking out everything in its path. It was rush hour, the platform was full.”
He added that the passengers he had seen were very shocked and talking of serious injuries.
Boris Berson, who was a passenger travelling in one of the front carriages which did not derail, said the passengers in his carriage were shaken and “did not know what was going on”. El Mehdi Bazgua, 19, who saw the derailment from the window of a suburban train told Le Parisien website: “I heard a massive noise and saw a cloud of sand that covered everything. I saw stones and wires on the ground.
“Then the dust lifted … We saw the first injured. I saw a man with an open head wound. Lots of people were cut. Lots of train passengers were blocked under the train.”
Witnesses described the part of the train which derailed as appearing to “split in two”.
The train had left the Paris-Austerlitz station on time and was scheduled, as usual, to pass through the suburban Bretigny station at high speed without stopping on its way to the city of Limoges in west central France.