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French rail crash victims still stuck inside a day after train derailed following points failure as police say looters stole from people's bodies
- Intercity train carrying 385 passengers was travelling to the city of Limoges
- It derailed onto its side in train station at about 3.15pm GMT yesterday
- Rescue workers desperately battled to free passengers trapped inside train
- Six passengers died and eight left critically injured
- Police said looters were 'picking through the wreckage' last night
PUBLISHED: 11:27 EST, 12 July 2013 | UPDATED: 09:20 EST, 13 July 2013
Emergency workers were today still searching for victims of France's worst rail crash in quarter of a century as it emerged that the crash was caused by a loose connector on the tracks.
It came as police reported looters trying to steal from the bodies of victims who were electrocuted or crushed to death.
At least six people died in the horrific accident on the outskirts of Paris on Friday night, with eight critically injured.
Dozens of others suffered lighter wounds, including British passengers among the 385 on board the Limoges-bound service.
Mess: Emergency workers were today still searching for victims of France's worst rail crash in quarter of a century as it emerged that it was caused by a loose connector
Awful: Police reported looters trying to steal from the bodies of victims who were electrocuted or crushed to death
Upsetting: At least six people perished in the horrific accident on the outskirts of Paris on Friday night. Police officers investigate the scene of the crash
Pierre Izard, a spokesman for SNCF, France's national railways company, said a metal bar connecting two rails had become detached close to Bretigny-sur-Orge station.
Referring to a switch joint, Mr Izard said: 'It moved into the centre of the switch and in this position it prevented the normal passage of the train's wheels and it may have caused the derailment.'
The train was travelling at 85mph - under the speed limit of 93mph, said Mr Izard, who added: 'The SNCF considers itself responsible for the lives of its clients.'
Today a crane was due to arrive at the scene to lift a mangled carriage which flipped over when the train hit a station platform.
'The fear is that victims may still be trapped in the wreckage,' said a French railways manager at the scene. 'The recovery operation will be carrying on all day.'
Injuries: Dozens of other passengers suffered lighter wounds, including British passengers among the 385 on board the Limoges-bound service
Probe: Police officers walk along the tracks at the site of the train crash today
A police spokesman described groups of local people 'picking through the wreckage' on Friday night.
'It appeared at first that they were trying to help, but it soon became clear that they were taking personal property away. When police approached they threw stones before running away.'
The crash site, some 16 miles from the centre of Paris, is surrounded by waste land used as a temporary home by vagrants and recent immigrants to France, mainly from eastern Europe.
Six carriages derailed in all, with the third and fourth leaving the rail first, at around 5.14pm.
Other carriages soon followed, with one mounting the station platform, a preliminary enquiry has established. It is being carried out by SNCF, judicial authorities and the BEA safety agency.
French transport minister Frederic Cuvillier has ruled out 'human error' - instead praising the train driver for averting an even more serious accident.
Tragedy: Six people have been killed and nine seriously injured after a packed passenger train derailed south of Paris this evening
Mangled: The platform roof and derailed train cars are pictured at the site of the accident
Horrific: An intercity train carrying 385 passengers, traveling from Paris towards Limoges, derailed crashing into a station platform leaving six people dead and a further 26 injured
Disaster: The seven carriage train split in two and then buckled
Mr Cuvillier said today: 'Fortunately, the driver of the locomotive had absolutely extraordinary reflexes in that he sounded the alarm immediately, preventing a collision with another train coming in the opposite direction and which would have hit the derailing carriages within seconds. So it was not a human problem.'
He said investigators would be concentrating on the rolling stock, the infrastructure, and, in particular, the points.
French transport routes were particularly busy on Friday afternoon because of the Bastille Day national holiday on Sunday.
French President Francois Hollande visited the scene on Friday evening, saying: 'We should avoid unnecessary speculation. What happened will eventually be known and the proper conclusions will be drawn.'
British student Marvin Khareem Wone was among those on another train when the intercity ploughed into the station.
Help: An elderly woman and her grandson are taken care of outside the train station of Bretigny-sur-Orge
Injured: Victims were kept wrapped under thermal blankets
Lucky: A survivor of the train crash wrapped in a rescue blanket talks to a rescue worker
Visit: French president Francois Hollande, centre, speaks to the press on the site of the train accident
Listening: Hollande speaks with victims on the site of a train accident
French president sends sympathies to victims of Paris train crash
He told the BBC: 'The train went off the railway - it just went on the platform and kind of flew in the air for a second and went upside down.
'The first and the second coach were completely destroyed. I really thought no-one could survive that because it was completely mashed up. Everyone was crying and running everywhere. A woman was crying for her daughter who was still on the train.'
Vianey Kalisa, who was also at the station, said: 'I saw many wounded women children trapped inside. People were screaming. A man had blood on his face. These are images of war'.
The train had left Paris-Austerlitz station at 4.53pm on Friday, and was due to arrive in Limoges at 8.05pm.
Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday expressed 'shock' at the disaster. Officials said yesterday they were checking whether any UK nationals were involved.
'My thoughts are with the victims and their families. The British Embassy in Paris is in close touch with the French authorities and stands by to provide any assistance required," Mr Hague said.
Accident: Six people have been killed and scores injured after a packed passenger train derailed south of Paris this evening
Wreckage: Passengers waiting on one of the platforms look on in shock as rescue workers race to help the victims
Awful: The high speed intercity train derailed onto its side in a train station in the suburb of Bretigny-sur-Orge. This picture shows an injured man being dragged from the mangled wreckage
Casualty: A fireman and a rescue worker evacuate an injured man
Seven dead in horror crash as train derails in France
The high speed intercity train was travelling from the French capital to the city of Limoges when it derailed onto its side in the suburb of Bretigny-sur-Orge at about 3.15pm GMT.
The accident left six people dead, with the victims being crushed to death or electrocuted.
Many passengers desperately scrambled to safety after smashing windows and crawling out while covered in glass and other debris.
Englishman Graham Hope suffered a head injury, saying: ‘The train just started to rock up and down like a bucking bronco and the next thing we hit the station itself.
'The train bounced up and down dramatically for several seconds.’
The seven carriage train, which ‘split in two’ and then 'buckled', said Mr Hope.
John Paul Martial, who lives opposite the station, said: ‘I heard like a big loud noise, coupled with a great shock, like an earthquake.
‘When I looked, there was a huge plume of smoke billowing above the rails. I was listening to the radio then I realised what had happened.’
Frightening: The speeding train split into two and derailed at the station
Desperate: Rescue workers are now desperately battling to free passengers still trapped inside the train
Mess: The Mayor of Bretigny said the scene was apocalyptic
Horror: Eyewitnesses say the seven carriage train split in two and buckled
Help: Rescue workers arrive on the site of the accident
Horrific pictures from the scene showed that the train had ploughed into the commuter station, with its carriages partly demolishing a platform.
Bazgua El Mehdi, 19, said: ‘I heard a loud noise and then a cloud of debris covered everything. Then I saw people getting off.
'One man had was barely conscious, with a bad wound to his head.’
Eyewitness Frederic said he ‘heard the screams’ of passengers caught up in the twisted metal.
The computer programmer, who lives in a building opposite the entrance to the station with his wife Christine, said: ‘We heard a deafening barrage in two stages, first the sound of train wheels that scrape the ballast then a loud crackling of metal.
Horror: The train derailed in Bretigny-sur-Orge, close to Paris, while travelling to Limoges
Nasty: This aerial image shows how the train ploughed through one of the platforms at the station
Shock: Eyewitnesses reported hearing a loud noise before seeing a cloud of debris
'Large ballast stones were thrown about ten feet around, falling on adjacent streets. Even our building shook.
‘From my balcony, I saw a cloud of dust rising, then I saw the carnage. I didn’t see any bodies, but I heard the screams. People could be seen running - fleeing from the station.’
It is a national holiday weekend in France because of Bastille Day on Sunday, meaning many families heading down south with children.
Derailed: A wagon of the train can be seen on its side in railway station . French President Francois Hollande is believed to be going to the scene of the accident
Panic: One of the carriages can be seen lying on its side as workers desperately race to the scene of the crash
Crash: A derailed wagon on the site of the train accident is pictured
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2362061/French-rail-crash-victims-stuck-inside-day-train-derailed-following-points-failure-police-say-looters-stole-peoples-bodies.html#ixzz2YwHkoIqo