France rail crash: Dozens hurt as train hits tree in hailstorm

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
One of the passengers was critically hurt and airlifted to hospital

Dozens of people were hurt, eight of them seriously, when a regional train hit a tree uprooted during a hailstorm in the south of France.

Witnesses said one passenger had been thrown out of the train by the force of the crash, at Saint-Aunes in the Herault region.

Emergency services said one person was critically injured and airlifted to hospital.

The front of the train was badly damaged and windows were knocked out.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
The damage left the line between Montpellier and Nimes blocked

The double-decker train had been travelling at 140km/h to the east of Montpellier when it rammed into the tree at around 15:45 local time (13:45 GMT), reports said.

"We were on the train when hailstones the size of ping-pong balls started falling, then we heard what sounded like an explosion," said a 24-year-old passenger from Luxembourg who gave her name as Justine.

"The train shook for a few seconds and then I saw some people whose heads were covered in blood."

Some passengers initially thought the crash was the beginning of a terrorist attack, after the string of incidents across Europe in recent months.

The accident left the Montpellier to Nimes line completely blocked during the evening rush hour but traffic was expected to resume later on Wednesday.

Image source, Meteo France
Image caption,
Satellite images showed the violence of the hailstorm in the region on Wednesday afternoon
Image source, Chrystopher Barolin
Image caption,
An estimated 250 people were on the train at the time of the crash

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