A head-on collision between a cargo and a passenger train killed 10 people and injured 23 others in eastern Germany, police said. Authorities believe the death toll could rise in one of the country's worst train accidents.
The trains crashed in heavy fog late Saturday on a single-line track near the village of Hordorf, close to Saxony-Anhalt's state capital Magdeburg. It's about 125 miles (200 kilometers) southwest of Berlin, Germany's capital.
"The crash was so strong that the passenger train was catapulted off the tracks onto a nearby field," Armin Friedrich, the police officer in charge of the rescue efforts, said at a news conference in Hordorf.
The front rows of the first passenger compartment were completely crushed and several seats were lying outside the train. The dark imprints of some of the bodies that had been removed could be seen on the white frosty ground next to the crash site. The noise of the collision was heard in Oschersleben village, more than four miles (about seven kilometers) away.
"We are still speechless and shocked by the images and the level of destruction," said Holger Hoevelmann, the interior minister of Saxony-Anhalt.
The cause of the crash was under investigation, with experts looking at all possibilities, including technical failure and human error. Nearly 200 police and rescue workers were sent to the crash site. About 50 people were on the passenger train when the accident happened, police said.
Most of the injured were so severely hurt that doctors fear the death toll could rise, he added.
Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her condolences, saying she too was shocked.
"My thoughts are with the families of the victims," Merkel said in a statement.
The chancellor also thanked the many rescue workers for their immediate and tireless help.
"I trust that everything will be done to find the cause of this horrible tragedy," Merkel said.
Two bodies have been identified, but police did not want to release their identities before informing relatives. A phone hotline was activated for family members and friends, and psychologists and ministers were on the scene to counsel rescue personnel.
Police said they were having trouble identifying victims because most of them were not carrying any kind of ID with them when the accident happened.
In 2006, 23 people were killed in a train accident in Emsland in northern Germany and 101 people died in 1998, when a high-speed train derailed near Eschede in Lower-Saxony.