Four teenagers were killed and seven seriously injured after a train and a school bus collided outside the town of Perpignan in southwestern France on Thursday, the interior ministry said.
It was not immediately clear why the accident happened. The train was traveling at around 50 miles per hour when it collided with the bus, according to an official. The regional news site reports that the barrier at the Los Palaus crossing, where the accident occurred, was down.
The school bus was ripped in half as a result of the crash
The rescue efforts began shortly after the crash, with 70 emergency workers and four helicopters in the area.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe was on an airplane en route.
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The injured were taken to hospitals in the region.
"It was a very violent crash - it seemed as if the train would derail", a woman, named Barbara, who was on the train told L'Independent. The mayor of Saint-Féliu-d'Amont, Robert Olive, visited the scene and said he was deeply shocked.
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The national railway operator SNCF told AFP that "according to witnesses, the level crossing was working as normal" but that an investigation would be carried out to confirm the cause. The Education Minister's office released a statement saying Jean-Michel Blanquer would visit to support students, teachers, families and the educational community.
President Emmanuel Macron tweeted his condolences to "the victims of this awful accident". It was one of the worst rail accidents in France in years. "The state is fully mobilised to help them".
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