Three people have died after a train derailed in Aberdeenshire amid torrential rain and flooding.
The train’s driver, a conductor and a passenger were all killed when an early-morning Aberdeen to Glasgow service came off the tracks near Stonehaven on Wednesday.
All three were pronounced dead at the scene, said British Transport Police (BTP). Six other people were injured.
The force confirmed the train’s driver and conductor were believed to have been among the dead, although they had not been formally identified as of Wednesday night.
ScotRail said the third casualty was a passenger on its 6.38am Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street service.
BTP said the six injured victims were taken to hospital but were not thought to be seriously hurt. The force added all passengers have now been accounted for.
Emergency services as well as fire crews and the police responded to the major incident, which occurred on the line west of Stonehaven.
Pictures posted from the area show at least six ambulance vehicles, an air ambulance and a number of police response cars on hand and smoke billowing behind them in the background.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, said that it was an “extremely serious incident” and confirmed that there had been early reports of “serious injuries”.
Chief Superintendent Eddie Wylie said: “This is a tragic incident and first and foremost our thoughts are with the families and friends of those who have very sadly died this morning.
“We remain on scene alongside our emergency service colleagues and a major incident operation has been under way.
“I would like to reassure the public that this was not a busy service and from CCTV inquiries and witness statements we believe all passengers have been accounted for.
“However, once the area has been made safe then a full and thorough search will be conducted, which is likely to take some time.
“I know many people will understandably have questions, and the investigation will be directed by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS).
“We will be working closely with them, alongside the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the Office of Rail and Road to establish the full circumstances of how the train came to derail.”
Mick Lynch, assistant general secretary of the RMT rail union, said: “The confirmation that there have been three fatalities in the Stonehaven derailment, including the driver and one of our conductor members, is the most dreadful news.
“This trade union’s thoughts are with the families, colleagues and friends of those who have lost their lives in this tragedy.
“RMT will unite to provide support, assistance and solidarity at this distressing time.
“Safety on the railway has to be an absolute priority and this union will be working with the various agencies to establish the facts behind this disaster which has sent shock waves right throughout our industry.”
The Queen sent a message of condolence to the Lord Lieutenant of Kincardineshire following the rail crash.
She said: “It was with great sadness that I heard of the train derailment earlier today in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire.
“The Duke of Edinburgh, and the entire Royal Family, join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of those who have died and those who have been injured.
“Our thanks go out to the emergency services for their response and dedication.”
Rail industry sources told PA news agency the train, comprising of a locomotive and four carriages, stopped due to a landslip and moved back along the line when it crashed into another landslip.
It is understood the locomotive and three carriages derailed and slid down an embankment with the Aslef train drivers’ union saying it then caught fire.
A Sepa spokeswoman told PA: “Between the hours of 0600 and 1000 on Wednesday 12 August, 79mm of rain was recorded at the Sepa rain gauge at Dunnotter (Stonehaven).”
Dozens of emergency service vehicles, including an air ambulance, were called to the scene at about 9.40am.
Unions called the crash a “tragedy” as a major incident was declared at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “My deepest condolences are with the loved ones of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident.
“I have just been updated by Network Rail and the emergency services on the ongoing operation.
“My thanks go to them, and my thoughts remain with everyone affected.”
She also tweeted the NHS Grampian helpline number, adding: “Anyone worried about friends or family involved in the Stonehaven rail incident can call 01224 319519 for advice and support.”
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he held emergency meetings on the derailment and is liaising with Network Rail Scotland and ScotRail.
He plans to visit the scene on Thursday morning and told the BBC: “My thoughts go out to the families, the friends, all those who have been involved in what’s happened today.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also tweeted: “I am saddened to learn of the very serious incident in Aberdeenshire and my thoughts are with all of those affected. My thanks to the emergency services at the scene.”
ScotRail managing director Alex Hynes said the rail operator is working with the emergency services on site as well as the relevant authorities to establish the cause of the incident.
Pledging to do “all we can to support those affected”, he added: “Our thoughts are with those who have been affected by this tragic event, particularly the families of those who have lost their lives.”
It is the second time a train has derailed in the area in the past two years, with no-one injured in the previous incident involving a non-passenger service in October 2018.
Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group, which represents the rail industry, said: “We are saddened to learn about the incident in Aberdeenshire today and our thoughts are with those affected.
“While an investigation will follow, our current focus is to provide every support we can in the immediate response.”
The Lord Provost of Aberdeen, Barney Crockett, said: “On behalf of the City of Aberdeen I extend my heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the families of those lost in this terrible accident.
“Our thoughts are also very much with those injured. The northeast of Scotland is a tight-knit community and the impact of today’s derailment will be felt across the region.
“Hopefully we can draw strength from each other in the difficult days ahead, especially those most affected.”
Additional reporting from PA
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