France train crash: Four children killed in 'terrible accident' involving school bus near Perpignan

'Emergency and public services are fully mobilised,' transport minister says

Four children killed in bus-train collision in France

Four children have been killed in a crash between a train and a school bus in southern France.

The French interior ministry confirmed four teenage children had died. Local media reported that seven other people had been seriously hurt, with a further 12 lightly injured.

The Pyrenees-Orientales authority tweeted that the collision occurred on Thursday afternoon on a railway crossing at the small town of Millas, about nine miles west of Perpignan and close to the border with Spain.

The country’s prime minister Edouard Philippe and transport minister Elizabeth Borne said they would travel immediately to the crash site.

“Emergency and public services are fully mobilised,” Ms Borne said on Twitter, describing the crash as a “terrible accident”.

Speaking later from the area Mr Philippe said the “circumstances of this terrible drama are still undetermined”.

He confirmed that two inquiries were underway into the accident that left four children dead and 20 others injured — including 11 seriously.

France’s SNCF national rail authority said witnesses described the crossing gates as functioning properly. Regional President Carole Delga told broadcaster France-Info that “it appears that there was no mechanical problem at this crossing.”

However, the head of the regional administration, Philippe Vignes, told reporters that investigators would examine whether everything worked properly and also look into reports that batteries in the automatic gate system had recently been stolen.

He said seven of the injured and some of the dead had not been identified by late Thursday.

Some 70 firefighters, 10 emergency ambulances and four helicopters responded to the crash.

The school bus was transporting children home from the Christian Bourquin school in the village of Millas. It was carrying around 20 children aged between 11 and 15, the local authority said.

Psychological help was being offered at a local sports hall from Friday morning.

President Emmanuel Macron said in a tweet: “All my thoughts for the victims of this terrible accident involving a school bus, as well as their families. The state is fully mobilised to help them.”

An image posted by France Bleu showed the white bus had been smashed in half in the crash.

The vehicle was carrying children aged between 13 and 17.

An SNCF spokeswoman said the train was running at about 50mph at the time of the accident, about 4pm, and that 25 people were on board. Three of them were slightly injured.

“It was a classic crossing, well equipped and lit. Several witnesses confirmed that the barrier had come down so it worked,” the spokeswoman said, adding that an investigation would have to clarify what had happened.

Additional reporting by agencies

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