Trains collide in France

Thursday, October 12, 2006

ZOUFFTGEN, France -- A passenger train collided Wednesday with an oncoming freight train in northeastern France, killing at least five people and injuring 16, two seriously, officials said.

The impact of the crash lifted one of the passenger train's cars on top of another, compressing it. Several cars of the freight train were either crumpled, bent skyward or tipped over on their sides. More than 300 police and rescue workers from both France and Luxembourg were at the scene.

Rescuers had retrieved five bodies by evening, police said, and did not believe any survivors were trapped inside the twisted wreckage, although rescue efforts were expected to continue through the night.

"If we pull out any more people, they will not be alive," said Luxembourg police spokeswoman Kristine Schmidt.

Another official, Bernard Franoz of the Zoufftgen police, said there could be as many as three more bodies in the wreckage on the tracks about a mile south of the border, but he did not elaborate.

The total number of passengers aboard was not known.

The passenger train was traveling from Luxembourg to the French city of Nancy. The train line it was traveling on was being repaired, so it switched onto a second track, hitting the oncoming freight train, said France's SNCF rail operator.

SNCF director-general Guillaume Pepy said the 22-car freight train had a green light at the time of the crash, and said there were no signs of speeding.

President Jacques Chirac ordered the government to "oversee the mobilization of all rescue services and quickly bring to light the circumstances of this dramatic accident," his office said.

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