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Train derails near Paris, seven believed dead, scores hurt

Friday, 12 Jul 2013 | 4:27 PM ET
Rescuers work at the accident at the Bretigny-sur-Orge station
Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images
Rescuers work at the accident at the Bretigny-sur-Orge station

A packed passenger train derailed and crashed into a station outside Paris, with at least seven people believed dead and dozens injured, authorities said.

The crash at Bretigny-sur-Orges station, the deadliest in France in years, occurred on the eve of the Bastille 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 some passengers may still have been trapped on the train. It was unclear whether all the casualties were inside the train or whether some had been on the platform. It was also unclear how fast the train was traveling.

The head of the SNCF rail authority, Guillaume Pepy, called it a "catastrophe." The cause of the incident was under investigation. Two cars, Nos. 3 and 4 derailed, then knocked the other cars off the track, he said.

"Some cars simply derailed, others are leaning, others fell over," he said.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls said at least seven people are believed dead and several dozen injured, but added that the casualty toll is "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 about 12 miles south of Paris. The train was headed from Paris to Limoges, a 250-mile journey, and was about 20 minutes into what would have been a three-hour trip.

(Read More: Fatal Oil Train Disaster Brings Scrutiny to Oil-by-Rail Boom)

The accident came as France prepared to celebrate its most important national holiday, Bastille Day, on Sunday, and as masses of vacationers headed out of Paris and other big cities.

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 and said there were swarms of emergency workers at the scene.

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