Authorities have mobilized emergency response personnel after a train crashed into a school bus near France's border with Spain. At least four children have been killed in the tragic accident, the Interior Ministry said.
French authorities on Thursday said a "serious rail accident" occurred in southern France after a regional train crashed into a school bus in Millas, which lies roughly 18 kilometers (11 miles) west of Perpignan and close to the Spanish border.
At least four children died and 20 others were injured, 11 critically, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe confirmed from the site of the crash. The dead and critically injured were all bus passengers.
"All emergency services have been mobilized and a crisis coordination unit set up," a local official told Reuters news agency. Authorities urged drivers to avoid the route where the accident took place.
The accident took place at a level train crossing. Local television showed images of the bus cut in half and the train derailed. The bus was taking about 20 children aged between 11 and 15 home after school was dismissed, authorities said.
Emergency response personnel were immediately dispatched to the scene following the "terrible accident"
Prime Minister Philippe, who flew to Millas late Thursday, said authorities were still trying to work out what caused the crash.
The "circumstances of this terrible drama are still undetermined," he said.
France's SNCF national rail authority said witnesses to the accident described the gates at the train crossing as functioning properly. However, the SNCF announced that an investigation would look into all possible causes, including mechanical failure.
Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne, who was also at the scene, described the incident as a "terrible accident," adding that Paris had mobilized state services to help the victims.
"All my thoughts for the victims of this terrible accident involving a school bus, as well as their families. The state is fully mobilized to help them," French President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet.
In 2015 the derailment of a high-speed train between Paris and Strasbourg killed 11 people.
cmb, ls/sms (Reuters, AP)