LONDON — At least three people have died, including the driver, after a passenger train in Scotland derailed on Wednesday. The country declared a major incident as aerial footage showed carriages overturned and piled on top of each other on a steep wooded slope, and black smoke rising from the rural area.
"Very sadly despite the best efforts of paramedics, we can confirm that three people have been pronounced dead at the scene," British Transport Police said in a statement, after a ScotRail train traveling from Aberdeen to Glasgow derailed near the town of Stonehaven, on Scotland's east coast.
Police said six people had also been taken to hospital to be treated for non-serious injuries.
"This is a tragic incident," said Chief Superintendent Eddie Wylie.
"I would like to reassure the public that this was not a busy service, and from CCTV enquiries and witness statements we believe all passengers have been accounted for."
Wylie added that once the area was safe, a thorough search would begin, and an investigation would get underway into the circumstances of the derailment.
"My deepest condolences are with the loved ones of those who lost their lives in this tragic incident," Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said on Twitter, urging friends and family of those involved to contact a support helpline.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said he was "saddened to learn of the very serious incident in Aberdeenshire," and thanked emergency services.
While the U.S. Ambassador to Britain Robert "Woody" Johnson also shared his sympathy online.
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesperson said in a statement that a medical helicopter was at the site, along with six ambulances and special response teams.
Stonehaven, a harbor town with a population of around 11,000, sits on Scotland's east coast, about 9 miles south of the oil city of Aberdeen.
The area has seen bad weather and heavy rain and flooding in recent days.
Network Rail, which owns and operates most of Britain's railway infrastructure, said it was too early to determine the cause of the derailment.
"It is too early to confirm the exact nature and severity of the incident and more details will be made available once known."
Britain's transport minister, Grant Shapps, said he had met urgently with Network Rail for a briefing on the derailment and said the "U.K. government will provide every support."
Britain has one of Europe's lowest rates of fatal rail accidents, according to Eurostat data.
The worst rail disasters in Britain in recent decades were a 1999 collision between two trains in London, in which 31 people died, and a 2001 accident near Selby in Yorkshire, northeast England, in which 10 people died, after a car ran onto the track.
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Aberdeen is Scotland's third-largest city by population and one of its wealthiest, serving as a hub for the North Sea oil industry.
On Wednesday, new coronavirus restrictions were placed on Aberdeen by Scotland's government, closing pubs and restaurants and ordering visitors to stay away, which some say may account for the relatively low passenger numbers on the train.
"The railway in Scotland is often referred to as a family, and it's one that is hurting today," said Alex Hynes, managing director of Scotland's Railway, in a statement.
Reuters contributed to this report.