Three people were killed and six taken to hospital following a passenger train derailment on Wednesday morning on the east coast of Scotland, police said.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon declared the accident a major incident.
Dark smoke billowed from a woodland area at the bottom of a valley near Stonehaven, just south of the oil city of Aberdeen, after the ScotRail train derailed following heavy rain overnight.
Two air ambulances and about 30 emergency service vehicles could be seen in a field just above the scene of the derailment. With rescue workers hampered by the steep terrain and dense woodland, it took many hours for casualty numbers to be confirmed.
Smoke billowing from a derailed train in Scotland, with a whole line of ambulances nearby. Reports of serious injuries <a href=”https://t.co/LtIOUWsfQz”>pic.twitter.com/LtIOUWsfQz</a>
Aerial footage showed one carriage detached from the rail tracks and lying on its side some distance down the slope. Another was completely overturned and had two carriages resting on it, one of which was also overturned.
“My deepest condolences are with the loved ones of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident,” said Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland’s semi-autonomous government.
British Transport Police said in a statement that “despite the best efforts of paramedics,” the three people were pronounced dead at the scene. It added that the driver of the train was believed to have been among those killed.
WATCH | The scene from above the deadly derailment:
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was saddened to learn of the “very serious incident” in Aberdeenshire, and his thoughts were with all those affected.
The train appeared to have been carrying very few passengers. The government has been advising Britons to avoid public transport wherever possible as part of efforts to reduce transmission of the coronavirus.
Police received reports of a train derailing near Stonehaven, a town 15 kilometres south of Aberdeen, at 9:40 a.m. local time on Wednesday.
Stonehaven and the surrounding area had been hit by floods in recent days, and some reports suggested a landslide may have played a part in the derailment, although that was not confirmed by authorities.
The Queen has sent a message of condolence to the Lord-Lieutenant of Kincardineshire, following the train crash near Stonehaven. <a href=”https://t.co/GEWkUsSKol”>pic.twitter.com/GEWkUsSKol</a>
TV footage showed two air ambulances in a field near the scene, alongside about 25 police vehicles and ambulances.
The United Kingdom has one of Europe’s lowest rates of fatal rail accidents, with a stronger safety record than Germany or France in recent years, according to Eurostat data that includes unauthorized people on railway tracks and at level crossings.
European railways are very safe for rail passengers, with just 13 deaths across the European Union’s 28 member states in 2018, according to the most recent available data from Eurostat. One of those was in the U.K.
The worst rail disasters in Britain in recent decades include a 1999 collision between two trains at Ladbroke Grove in London, in which 31 people died, and a 2001 accident near Selby in Yorkshire, northeast England, in which 10 people died after a car ran onto the track and was hit by two trains.