A passenger train collided with a halted freight train in rural Belgium, killing the driver and two passengers. Authorities have warned that it will be tough to determine the cause of the crash.
Three people were killed and nine hospitalized after a late-night passenger train crashed into a stopped freight train in Belgium, authorities announced Monday. Two of the cars from the passenger train ran off the tracks and tipped over near the village of Hermalle-sous-Huy in the Saint-Georges-Sur-Meuse province.
"The passenger train is really in a lamentable state," Saint-Georges-Sur-Meuse leader Francis Dejon said at a press conference, saying the front train car was so severely damaged "it was curled back on itself."
State television RTBF said that among the dead were the train's driver and two passengers. Of the nine in the hospital, some were in critical condition, Dejon said, and the death toll could rise. A further 27 passengers were treated for minor injuries at the scene.
Cause 'difficult' to determine
Dejon told reporters that investigators were already at the scene determining the cause of the accident, which occurred around 11 pm local time, a few hours after a series of lightning strikes and signal disruptions were reported on the line.
"The investigation will tell us if there is a link with the recent storms," said a spokeswoman from the prosecutors' office, warning that it "would be difficult" to determine the exact cause.
"There was a lot of rain yesterday (Sunday), other train lines were completely flooded," she added.
It took nearly three hours for rescue workers to reach passengers trapped in the train. There were around 40 people total on the train, according to RTBF many of them students returning to school after the weekend.
The incident cut off train traffic between Namur and Liege, two of the country's biggest cities, with rail operator SNCB saying it could be days before the tracks are cleared.
Prime Minister Charles Michel offered his sympathy on Twitter: "All my condolences for the families of the victims... and a fast recovery to the injured."
Michel and Belgium's King Philippe were set to visit the scene later on Monday.
es/kms (AP, AFP, Reuters)