At least three people were killed and nine injured Sunday in a high speed train crash in eastern Belgium, authorities said.
A fast-moving passenger train slammed into the back of a goods train on the same track, Frederic Sacre, spokesman for Belgian railway infrastructure manager Infrabel, told AFP.
Nine passengers were injured to varying degrees with some described as being in a critical condition by authorities during a press briefing near the scene of the crash.
A further 27 people were being cared for, and the number of injured was originally reported as 40, roughly the total number of people on board.
The train was travelling from the west to the east of Belgium on the Namur-Liege line when the accident occurred in the municipality of Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse at 11:00 pm (2100 GMT).
“The passenger train is really in a bad way, it’s stunning,” said Francis Dejon, mayor of Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse who had been following rescue operations.
“The front carriage is scrunched back up on itself. We were very lucky not to have more victims,” he told the Belgian news agency Belga.
“Two of the six carriages derailed and are lying on the tracks,” Infrabel and the National Railway Company of Belgium (SNCB) said in a joint statement.
The front carriage was completely turned on its side, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
Belga reported that the collision had been “very violent,” adding that fire and police services had been sent from Liege to the scene, with several passengers having to be extracted from the wreckage.
A person who had been on board described the scene as “chaos” to the local daily newspaper L’Avenir, saying that the front two carriages had been destroyed.
The circumstances of the accident were not immediately clear, with questions remaining over whether the passenger train was able to brake before the crash.
“The priority is to care for the victims,” Infrabel and SNCB said, but added that information was already being analysed to determine how the crash took place.
A crisis centre was set up at the scene of the accident.
In February 2010, 18 people were killed and 95 injured when two trains collided in a Brussels suburb in one of Europe’s deadliest railway accidents of the past decade.
More recently, one person was killed and nearly 50 injured when a train carrying highly toxic chemicals derailed and exploded near the city of Ghent in May 2013.