School bus CUT IN HALF in horror crash with TRAIN – at least 4 children dead, 19 injured
France’s interior ministry reported that at least four children have been killed and 24 people have been injured. All the victims were on board the bus and the children are believed to be between 13 and 17.
The vehicle, which was traveling between Perpignan and Villefranche-de-Conflent, is believed to have entered a level crossing at Los Palaus in Millas, France, while the barriers were down before being hit from behind by the regional TER train.
According to witnesses, the bus was “cut in two” following the harrowing collision.
Local officials had set up a crisis centre near the scene after the mass casualty collision happened at about 4pm local time on Thursday.
* DISTRESSING IMAGES BELOW – GRAPHIC CONTENT WARNING *
Police and fire crews raced to the scene with the air ambulance in operation to get the victims as quickly as possible to the nearest hospital in Perpignan, about twenty kilometers away.
Video images showed a long line of ambulance and emergency service vehicles near the crossing where the collision occurred.
A spokeswoman from state-owned rail operator SNCF said the train was running at 80 kilometres an hour at the time of the accident and 25 people were on board. Three of those were slightly injured.
She added: “It was a classic crossing, well equipped and lit. Several witnesses confirmed that the barrier had come down so it worked.”
The school bus was cut in two in the crash with the TER train
Rescuers are going through the wreckage to free victims which includes several children believed to be of secondary school age.
One person on the train, named by local media as Barabara, said: “The shock was very violent and we had the impression that the train was going to derail.
“Helicopters have also been mobilized to take care of the wounded.
“The passengers of the train are being evacuated by the police while the relief workers are busy with the passengers of the school bus.”
The school bus crashed into the train in Millas
Victims are being transported by helicopter to the nearest hospital in Perpignan
All my thoughts for the victims of this terrible accident of a school bus and for their families.
Marcel, a shopkeeper near the crossing, said: “I saw several fire trucks and helicopters landed and left.”
Parents of the 25 children on the bus have been told to “go to the college where they will be welcomed and informed if necessary.”
The bus was transporting children between the college of Millas and the communes of Saint-Féliu-d’Amont and Saint-Féliu-d’Avall.
Trains between Villefranche and Perpignan have been cancelled following the incident.
In a tweet, SNCF, the national rail operator, wrote: “Road accident on a crossing at Millas. SNCF offers a heartfelt message of support to the victims and their families.”
Trains between Villefranche and Perpignan have been cancelled
Élisabeth Borne, Minister of Transport, was quick to react on social networks, describing the incident as a “terrible accident” as she travelled to the scene.
She added: “Very strong emotion following the terrible accident at #Millas in the Pyrénées-Orientales.”
Cllaimg “France is in mourning”, the Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer said: “It is with great sadness that we learn about the school bus accident in Millas, we are mobilizing all state services.”
He and Prime Minister Édouard Philippe, who is currently in Cahors, are also expected to travel to the crash site.
French President Emmanuel Macron posted on Twitter: “All my thoughts for the victims of this terrible accident of a school bus and for their families.”
The bus was cut in half after the train crash
Fire crews and police raced to Millas after the bus crash
The Perpignan prefect’s office announced that it was a “very serious event of national scope” thus demanding “national reinforcements for the safety of the site”.
“All emergency services have been mobilised and a crisis coordination unit set up,” an official at the local Millas townhall told Reuters.
An information number has been set up for parents of pupils: 04 68 51 67 67 .
It is not yet clear what cuased the accident. An investigation has been launched.
France has suffered several train incidents in the past few decades. In 2013, a train derailment in central France killed at least six people.
One of the deadliest was in 1988, when a commuter train heading into Paris’ Gare de Lyon crashed into a stationary train, killing 56 people, after its brakes failed.