At least two people were killed, including a Russian woman, when a tourist train derailed in the Alps in southern France, local emergency services said on Saturday.
The Train des Pignes, a small private railway which operates on a single track between Nice and Dignes-les-Bains, came off the rails when hit by a boulder that had fallen from the surrounding hills, according to local daily Nice Matin.
Local authorities confirmed early Saturday afternoon that one of the dead was a Russian woman. Meanwhile, Nice Matin reported that the second victim was a local woman from the Nice area. At least eight people were injured in the incident.
"It was as if the boulder fell from the sky, like in an earthquake," said Jean-Jacques Messaoud, who was aboard the train when the accident happened.
Another passenger, Floriane Bonnet, was relaxing at the back of the train when the accident happened.
"I didn't understand, I was thrown to the left and I saw the first half of the train go down the embankment. I tried to break a window but couldn't manage it so I left through the front."
The train was still dangling dramatically from the tracks three hours after the accident, the side of one car caved in from the boulder. A total of 110 firefighters and 32 vehicles were deployed to the scene, as well as two helicopters.
Over 100 years old, the Train des Pignes is hugely popular among tourists. It takes passengers on a picturesque 151-kilometre (90-mile) journey from the sea to the mountains of Haute-Provence, crossing over bridges and viaducts and chugging through valleys and gorges.
French Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier was due to visit the scene of the accident on Saturday afternoon.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
Date created : 2014-02-08