Eight people were seriously hurt yesterday when a regional express train crashed into a fallen tree uprooted by a massive hailstorm in southern France.
The regional express was carrying 219 passengers on a service between Nimes and Montpellier when it hit the tree at 140km/h, said the state rail operator SNCF.
The incident occurred near the town of Lunel, 28km south-west of Nimes.
The impact sparked panic, as some passengers feared a jihadist attack was under way, said one witness.
Local rescue services said one individual was critically injured and was airlifted to hospital. Fifty other passengers suffered minor injuries or shock.
“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.
“The train shook for a few seconds and then I saw some people whose heads were covered in blood.”
Another passenger said some people on the train feared a terror attack was unfolding. “There was panic, some at first thought it was an attack on the train,” said the 35-year-old woman.
SNCF said around 80 rescue workers, backed by helicopters, were deployed to the scene, where “access is very difficult”. The tree was a “very tall pine” located on private property next to the railway line.
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