A Dutch high-speed passenger train slammed into heavy construction equipment and derailed near The Hague early Tuesday, killing at least one person and injuring 30, emergency services said.
The train travelling from Leiden to The Hague hit a crane on the track near the village of Voorschoten around 3:30 am (0130 GMT), while a freight train separately collided with the equipment, rail operators said.
The force of the crash left a front double-decker passenger carriage lying in a meadow and a second on its side on an embankment, while two carriages remained on the tracks, AFP reporters at the scene said.
Heavy scorch marks could be seen on one carriage, and Dutch media reported a fire had broken out after the accident.
“We heard a bang first and then later a much more intense one,” local resident Chris van Engelenburg, 36, told AFP.
“Then we heard people screaming. It was not good.”
The train was carrying around 50 people when it crashed, Dutch authorities said. Dutch railways regularly run services during the night on key intercity lines.
“One person has died and at least 30 people have been injured. The seriously injured are being taken to hospital, while 11 are at homes of nearby residents,” Hollands Midden emergency services said.
“Specialists are working to secure the train.”
The freight train’s electric locomotive was severely damaged but the driver had been medically examined and was “fine”, operator DB Cargo said.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said it was a “terrible train accident” and confirmed that “unfortunately one person died and many people were injured”.
“My thoughts are with the relatives and with all the victims. I wish them all the best,” Rutte tweeted.
Dutch rail network company ProRail’s CEO John Voppen said it was a “black day for the Dutch railways”.
Services on the busy link, used by trains running from Amsterdam to Brussels and Paris have been halted and will not resume until the afternoon, rail officials said.
The mangled wreckage of the crane could also be seen further down the tracks, an AFP journalist said.
Several ambulances and a helicopter were deployed to take seriously injured passengers to the hospital. Some victims were cared for in nearby homes, Dutch media said.
Emergency workers and rail staff in high-visibility jackets could be seen inspecting the scene of the crash throughout the morning, while a drone flew overhead.
“The damage is massive, I have not seen anything like this. But fortunately, this does not happen often in the Netherlands,” ProRail spokesman Jeroen Wienen told AFP at the scene.
“Several different investigations have now been started and we want to find out exactly what has happened.”
Both the tracks and the electricity lines had been damaged, he added.
“We heard a loud bang and suddenly the lights went out,” an unidentified witness told the local Omroep West television news.
“We couldn’t initially get out of the train because there was no electricity,” said the man, who appeared in a state of shock.
“Eventually we got after what felt like hours,” the man added.
Dutch King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima said they “deeply sympathise” with the victims, adding that “many are now in fear and uncertainty.”
The Netherlands’ worst train disaster happened on January 8, 1962, when two passenger trains crashed at Harmelen, near the central city of Utrecht, killing 93 people and injuring 52 others.
That accident occurred in thick fog when a train driver missed a warning signal and the two trains hit head-on.
One person was killed and six others were injured when a train collided with a hydraulic crane in the central Netherlands in 2016.
Another person died and 117 others were injured in a collision near Amsterdam in April 2012 with reports later saying a driver failed to respect a stop sign.