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At least 6 dead, 30 injured after train derails near Paris (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

At least six people have been killed and 30 injured after a train derailed in the suburbs of Paris. French media reported that 370 people were on the train at the time of the accident, which ranks as France's deadliest train crash in 25 years.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was at the scene of the accident late on Friday, telling reporters that "the toll is currently six dead, 30 injured, of whom eight are in a serious condition."

The accident happened at a railway station in the commune of Bretigny-sur-Orge at 17:15 local time (15:15 GMT). 

France's transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said Saturday human error did not play a part in the accident.

Cuvillier said it was immediately unclear what was responsible for causing the train to derail. It was later discovered that a faulty switch caused the problem, according to Pierre Izard, the French national railway company, SNCF’s general manager for infrastructure.

The steel piece which joins two tracks broke away, he said, adding that the company had ordered the assessment of 5,000 similar pieces of track.

Some passengers were crushed or electrocuted as the commuter train, which was en route from Paris to Limoges, entered the station at a high speed. One carriage was left behind as the train traveled a bit further before derailing and crashing into the platform. Four of the seven train carriages overturned, leaving many of the injured stuck inside. 

“The train arrived at the station at high speed. It split in two for an unknown reason. Part of the train continued to roll while the other was left on its side on the platform,” a local police source said. 

The commune’s mayor, Bernard Decaux, described the scenes of panic at the station as “apocalyptic,” saying he fears the number of victims will grow.  

“Everything was fine as the train left Paris, and then we felt a violent shuddering and saw a billowing cloud of white smoke. We realised that the coaches behind us had fallen over and there were many people trapped inside. The train was full. SNCF staff told us that some of the dead had been decapitated,” a passenger told France 24..

Tearful Guillaume Pepy, head of SNCF, says 370 people on #Bretigny train, death count will be given by judicial authorities in coming hours.

— Henry Samuel (@H_E_Samuel) July 12, 2013

Around 300 rescuers, firefighters, and police have been dispatched to the scene.

Rescue helicopters have been deployed and all Paris region hospital have been put on alert to deal with the wounded.

Director of security at SNCF Alain Krakovitch had words of praise for the reactions of the train driver.

Having felt the train shaking as it entered the station, he sent out warning signals by radio and by flashing a light, thus bringing all traffic in the area to a halt.

His quick thinking avoided any collision with approaching trains, Krakovitch said, as quoted by France 24.

French President Francois Hollande has also arrived at Bretigny railway station, following news of the incident. 

The accident occurred ahead of one of the busiest weekends for travelers in France, which is celebrating Bastille Day on Sunday.

Rescuers work on the site of a train accident in the railway station of Bretigny-sur-Orge on July 12, 2013 near Paris. (AFP Photo / Kenzo Tribouillard)

A picture shows a derailed wagon on the site of a train accident in the railway station of Bretigny-sur-Orge on July 12, 2013 near Paris.(AFP Photo / Kenzo Tribouillard)

Un #train a #déraillé cet après midi en gare de Brétigny-sur-Orge. La prefecture évoque de nombreuses vicitimes pic.twitter.com/ExLl0AMGOy

— France 3 Paris (@France3Paris) July 12, 2013

Accident les pompiers arrivent pic.twitter.com/uiHMl6MNYl

— Aurélien (@flacaure) July 12, 2013

A Bretigny ! pic.twitter.com/9qs6hDvSPL

— Aicha (عائش) Kurdish (@AichaKurdish) July 12, 2013

Où sont les secours? 350 personnes à bord #Brétignypic.twitter.com/3UjWuwDN7B

— Benito Kiessel (@belkiess) July 12, 2013