A passenger train has derailed and tipped over in Philadelphia, killing at least five people and injuring scores more.
Mayor Michael Nutter said the scene was horrific and not all the more than 240 people on the Amtrak train had been accounted for.
“It is an absolute, disastrous mess,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
He said all seven carriages, including the engine, were in “various stages of disarray”, and added there were carriages that were “completely overturned, on their side, ripped apart”.
“It is a devastating scene down there,” he said. “We walked the entire length of the train area, and the engine completely separated from the rest of the train, and one of the cars is perpendicular to the rest of the cars. It’s unbelievable.”
More than 130 people were taken to hospital and six were critically injured.
The cause of the derailment is not yet known, but Amtrak said it was bringing in portable lights to illuminate the scene overnight as workers examined the wreckage.
Train 188, a Northeast Regional service, had left Washington DC en route for New York City. The front of the train was going into a turn when it started to shake before coming to a sudden stop.
Passenger Paul Cheung said: “The train started to decelerate, like someone had slammed the brake. Then suddenly you could see everything starting to shake. You could see people’s stuff flying over me.”
Mr Cheung said another passenger urged him to escape from the back of his carriage, which he did. He said he saw passengers trying to escape through the windows of carraiges tipped on their sides.
“The front of the train is really mangled,” he said. “It’s a complete wreck. The whole thing is like a pile of metal.”
Another passenger, Daniel Wetrin, was among more than a dozen people taken to a nearby primary school afterwards.
“I think the fact that I walked off (the train) kind of made it even more surreal because a lot of people didn’t walk off,” he said.
“I walked off as if, like, I was in a movie. There were people standing around, people with bloody faces. There were people, chairs, tables mangled about in the compartment ... power cables all buckled down as you stepped off the train.”
The area where the derailment occurred is known as Frankford Junction and has a big curve. It is not far from where one of the deadliest US train accidents occurred: the 1943 derailment of the Congressional Limited, from Washington to New York, which killed 79 people.
Police swarming around the new derailment site, in Port Richmond, a working-class area, told people to get back, away from the train.
Roads all around the crash site were blocked off. Waves of firefighters surrounded the train carriages, taking people out.
Former US Representative Patrick Murphy was on the train and said he helped people. He tweeted photos of firefighters helping other people in the wreckage.
“Pray for those injured,” he said.
Amtrak said the train was carrying 238 passengers and five crew members. It said services on the busy Northeast Corridor between New York and Philadelphia had been stopped. The mayor, citing the mangled train tracks and downed wires, said: “There’s no circumstance under which there would be any Amtrak service this week through Philadelphia.”
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was gathering information about the derailment.