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Originally published July 12, 2013 at 5:19 PM | Page modified July 13, 2013 at 8:45 AM

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At least 6 killed as train derails outside Paris

The accident came as France prepared to celebrate its most important national holiday, Bastille Day, on Sunday.

The Associated Press

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BRÉTIGNY-SUR-ORGE, France — A train carrying hundreds of passengers derailed and crashed into a station outside Paris on Friday on one of the busiest days of the year for vacation getaways. At least six people were killed and dozens were injured, officials said.

French President François Hollande went to the scene at the Brétigny-sur-Orge station, 12 miles south of Paris. The Interior Ministry said some 192 people were either injured or being treated for shock; nine of them were in critical condition.

Four of the seven train cars slid toward the station, crushing part of the metallic roof over the platform. Images showed gnarled metal and shards on the platform, and debris from the crash clogging the stairwell leading beneath the platform.

It was the worst French train accident since 1988, when 56 people died in Gare de Lyon station in Paris.

The accident came as France was preparing to celebrate its most important national holiday, Bastille Day, on Sunday, and as masses of vacationers headed out of Paris and other big cities to visit relatives or for holidays.

Hollande said an inquiry has been launched to determine the cause of the accident.

Witnesses said the intercity train — not one of France’s TGV express services — was not moving at an excessive speed as it headed into the station, where it was not scheduled to stop, deepening the mystery of what happened.

“I think it’s genuinely too early to start to give this or that hypothesis. Now, we’re still in the emergency operation,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet.

Ben Khelifa, 20, an accounting apprentice whose commuter train was on the adjacent track, said the derailed train “was unrecognizable.”

“There was nothing but metal scraps,” he said. “The train just collapsed, just like that, on its side.”

It was unclear whether all the victims were inside the train, or whether some had been on the platform, or how fast the train was traveling. The head of the rail authority, Guillaume Pepy, called it a “catastrophe.”

The train’s third and fourth cars initially derailed, which then knocked the other cars off the track, Pepy said. “Some cars simply derailed, others are leaning, others fell over,” he said.

The Interior Ministry said six people died in the crash and nine were in critical condition. Earlier, Interior Minister Manuel Valls had said seven people died.

The rail authority said the train was carrying about 385 passengers when it derailed at 5:15 p.m. Friday. The train was headed from Paris to Limoges, a 250-mile journey, and was about 20 minutes into the scheduled three-hour journey when the accident occurred.

Material from The New York Times and Deutsche Presse-Agentur is included in this report.

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