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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 October 2006, 22:34 GMT 23:34 UK
Five die in French rail collision
Rescue workers examine the wreckage of the two trains

At least five people have been killed in a head-on train collision in north-eastern France, while others are still trapped in the wreckage.

A passenger train collided with a goods train in Zoufftgen, near the Luxembourg border, at about 1145 (0945 GMT).

It was initially reported that as many as 12 people may have died, but the French transport minister said later that five were confirmed dead.

A senior regional official described the scene as "an apocalyptic vision".

"There's a mess of steel and tangled metal, with wagons up-ended and pointing into the sky," said Bernard Mertz.

The two trains had been sent onto the same section of the line after engineering works had restricted traffic to a single track, said a spokesman for the railway operator SNCF.

SNCF initially said two train drivers had died, as well as nine passengers and a person working on the track.

But later reports said five were dead, five injured and 10 others were being treated for shock.

But the local Moselle administration said several people were trapped inside the wreckage, "which means the toll could evolve".

Trapped

The passenger train left Luxembourg at 1130 and was due to arrive in the city of Nancy at 1255.

Map

It collided with the freight train, which was heading north to Luxembourg.

SNCF told reporters its train had received a green signal to switch onto the first track, as the second one was closed for maintenance work.

A spokesman said: "For reasons that are not clear, these two trains came together head-to-head."

The number of passengers on board the double-decker regional express is not known.

More than 100 rescue workers were at the crash site to set up a mobile hospital and treat victims, a local fire chief, Samuel Gesret, told French television.

"We are faced with an important and dramatic situation," Eric Soupra, a local civil security official, told French radio.

Some of the wounded were trapped in the wreckage and would have to be cut out, he said.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and Transport Minister Dominique Perben went to the scene, as well as investigators who will be looking into the cause of the crash.


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A journalist at the scene describes the aftermath



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