At least three dead after train hits school bus in France

Emergency services at the scene near Millas. Pic France Bleu

At least four children have died after a train sliced open a school bus in southern France.

Four other children, aged 12 or 13, died on Thursday in the collision, while 16 others and the bus driver were injured. The death toll rose to six Friday morning after two 11-year-old girls succumbed to their injures, a police source told the AFP news agency.

A school bus taking around 20 students home Thursday afternoon collided with a train in the south of France, resulting in "numerous victims", according to the local government.

The causes of the crash are unknown, pending a full investigation, officials said. Philippe Vignes, the Pyrenees-Orientales chief, told BFM television that several children and the bus driver remained in serious condition on Friday. The school opened its doors Friday to offer counselling for grieving students and families.

"There are contradictory rumors", he said.

Theimpact ripped the bus in half and forced the train off the tracks.

Vignes told reporters investigators would look into reports the batteries in the automatic train gate system had been stolen.

National railway company SNCF said the train was carrying 25 people, including passengers and crew, and all were accounted for and being offered counselling.

Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne has described it as a "terrible accident" and said on Twitter that she was heading to the scene - around 530 miles from Paris.

Philippe told reporters the authorities were focused on getting accurate information to families, a process "made hard by the question of identification of those who have died and some of the injured".

Some 70 firefighters, 10 emergency ambulances and four helicopters responded to the crash.

In a tweet, French President Emmanuel Macron said: "All my thoughts for the victims of this awful accident involving a school bus, as well as their families".

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