High-speed French train goes off rails

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PARIS - Four coaches of a French high-speed train, travelling at nearly 200mph along the track which Channel Tunnel trains will use when the tunnel opens next year, were derailed yesterday, writes Julian Nundy. The carriages remained upright and there were no serious injuries, the SNCF rail network said.

The Train a Grande Vitesse, or TGV, from Valenciennes, near Lille, to Paris, came off the rails because of subsidence under the track caused by flooding after several days of heavy rain near Amiens in the Somme, it said.

Three of the 211 passengers were hurt but only one needed hospital treatment, officials said. The SNCF said the train was running at 300kph (187mph) when the incident occurred at 7.10am.

Fierce storms in Western Europe killed at least three people in Germany, closed hospitals and schools, and curbed Norway's oil exports. Dutch helicopters had to rescue inhabitants of two villages flooded by the river Maas. More rain was forecast for today and tomorrow. The Moselle reached a record level in Trier, and German police planned to evacuate residents in case of flooding.