Lionel Bonaventure / AFP - Getty Images
The site of a train accident on Friday at the railway station of Bretigny-sur-Orge, near Paris.
At least six people are dead and more than 20 are injured after a train crash in the Paris suburb of Bretigny-sur-Orge on Friday afternoon.
Michel Fuzeau, prefect of the Essone region where the crash took place, told reporters at the scene he feared the number of casualties could rise as rescue workers responded on Friday.
"At this time there are six people dead," French President Francois Hollande said at the scene. "There are 22 seriously injured, one who is in critical condition. And then there many lightly injured people who are already being treated."
Hollande added: "I also want to express my solidarity to the families of those hurt. It is going to take a long time to identify all the victims, the investigations have begun, and as soon as it is possible we will contact the families and give out the names, but I understand the apprehension and the pain. My thoughts are with them. "
The country’s interior minister put the toll higher in the crash’s immediate aftermath, telling The Associated Press that as many as seven people were thought to be dead.
A photograph taken from social media and posted on the website of French newspaper Le Parisien showed a smashed train car alongside the train station platform in Bretigny-sur-Orge, some 12 miles outside the French capital.
“Most of the people who suffered minor injuries have been taken care of,” local politician Michel Pouzol said, according to Reuters. “We are going to have to empty the carriages completely to see if there are victims or not.”
An official for France's national railway company, SNCF, told the AP that the train was carrying 385 passengers when the train derailed and four cars piled up while traveling from Paris to Limoges at around 5:15 pm local time.
Guillaume Pepy, chairman of the SNCF, said the derailment occurred at the point of changing tracks. The train was entering at high speed because it was not supposed to stop at that station, he said.
Pepy praised the train conductor, who he said was able to stop the train before it crashed into another one on the same track.
Most of those injured are believed to have been evacuated, but a further search may reveal more, Pepy told journalists.
Four of the six train cars are severely damaged.
France's transport minister was heading to the crash scene, the AP reported.
NBC News’ Alastair Jamieson and Becky Bratu contributed to this report.
First published July 12 2013, 5:19 PM