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Three of Pope Francis' relatives die in Argentina car crash, including two young great-nephews

The Vatican has said the Holy See is "deeply pained"

Three relatives of Pope Francis, including a 2-year-old and an 8-month-old baby, have died in a car crash on a provincial highway in Argentina, according to officials.

Emanuel Bergoglio, a nephew of the Pope, his wife, Valeria Carmona, and two young children, Jose and Antonio, were travelling in a small car when it slammed into the back of a truck carrying grains, shortly after midnight, DYN news agency reported.

Ms Carmona, 39, and the two young boys died before arriving at a hospital, Ignacio Bruno, an assistant director of the hospital in the town of Villa Maria, told broadcaster Todo Noticias.

Ms Carmona was a social worker dedicated to helping police officers deal with victims of domestic violence, said Horacio Alberto Gimenez, chief of the Buenos Aires Metropolitan Police.

Mr Bergoglio, who is the son of the Holy See's late brother Alberto, was the only survivor, according to police Superintendent Jorge Raineri.

The 38-year-old medical examiner was hospitalised after the incident, having suffered extensive injuries. He later underwent surgery and will be closely monitored over the next 48 hours as doctors with decide their next move, the director of the hospital, Francisco Fortuna, told Radio Continental.

"He has made good post-operative progress and the hemorrhage, which was the reason for the surgical intervention, has been contained," Fortuna said.

The driver of the grain truck was not injured.

It is believed the family had been returning to their home city of Buenos Aires on Tuesday following a holiday weekend, and were travelling between the cities of Rosario and Cordoba.

Vatican spokesman the Reverend Federico Lombardi said: "the Pope was informed about the tragic accident. He is deeply pained."

He added the pope asks "all who share in his grief to unite with him in prayer."

The tragic incident came as Pope Francis returned from his first trip to Asia since he was appointed in 2013.

Additional reporting by AP