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updated 3/24/2010 5:02:17 PM ET 2010-03-24T21:02:17

Sixteen runaway train cars careened downhill for three miles and crashed into a port building Wednesday, killing three workers, before two of the cars plunged into the water.

The empty train cars broke loose from a cargo train and slammed into the port terminal on the edge of the Oslo fjord, destroying the building, police and railroad officials said.

The victims had been working in or around the terminal, police spokeswoman Martine Laeng said. A worker initially reported missing was later confirmed as one of three casualties; three people were reported injured.

It was not immediately clear how the train cars became detached. Authorities said they started rolling from a rail yard in eastern Oslo and accelerated as they moved toward the industrial port, about three miles down the tracks.

‘We realized something was wrong’
Vegar Halveg, who works for a transport company at the port in the Sjursoeya district of Oslo, said he heard a loud screech and looked out the window to see several empty cargo train cars speed past.

"They were going much faster than they usually do, so we realized something was wrong," Halveg told The Associated Press, estimating their speed at more than 100 kilometers an hour (62 miles per hour). "The last car was practically airborne."

Halveg said several cars derailed and one hit a dump truck. The driver was injured but conscious when rescue workers put him into an ambulance, he said.

Port worker Morten Schroeder told national broadcaster NRK the runaway train cars appeared "without any kind of warning whatsoever," despite the long distance they traveled before reaching the port.

Nine of the rail cars appeared to have derailed before the line ended, taking out cars and trucks. The rest smashed through a barrier at the end of the track before tearing into an administrative building. Two of them crashed through the building and fell into the fjord, police said.

Johan Fredriksen, chief of staff for Oslo police, said police were interviewing workers both at the port and at the rail yard to determine what caused the accident. He said there was no immediate suspicion of wrongdoing or negligence.

Fredriksen said the scene was secure and that there was no risk of explosions or a fire.

He said it wasn't immediately clear what kind of warning — if any — had been sent in advance of the crash. He said police received the first emergency call at about the same time the train cars entered the port area.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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