Four killed and dozens injured in train crash in Czech Republic

Four people have been killed and dozens injured when an express train collided head-on with a freight train in the Czech town of Pardubice, an emergency services spokesman said.

"I can confirm that four people have received injuries incompatible with life," local emergency services spokeswoman Alena Kisial told Czech television.

The incident happened shortly before 9 p.m. GMT near the main railway station in Pardubice, about 100 kilometers east of the capital Prague, Czech television reported.

The train was carrying more than 300 passengers, many of them foreigners, the television station added.

Prime Minister Peter Fiala offered condolences in X, saying the crash was a "great catastrophe" and that "we are all thinking of the victims and the injured."

The interior and transport ministers arrived at the scene around 01:00.

Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said most of the injuries were minor and that passengers were evacuated to the train station building.

The express train, operated by the private company Regiojet, was travelling to the western Ukrainian town of Chop, near the border with Slovakia.

The timetable showed that the train, which left Prague at 19:52 GMT, was due to depart Pardubice at 20:47 GMT.

The train was expected to arrive in Chop at 08:35 GMT after crossing Slovakia.

Footage on Czech television showed that at least one of the carriages had derailed and that passengers were boarding buses near Pardubice's central station.

Rakusan said police identified the passengers gathered at the station after Regiojet provided a list of passengers.

Rescuers said nine ambulances, two helicopters and more than 60 firefighters, both professional and volunteer, were dispatched.

"Rescue work was hampered because the first carriage was deformed. This made access to the injured people difficult," firefighter Pavel Ber told reporters at the scene.

Local fire department spokeswoman Vendula Horakova told Czech Television that the freight train was carrying calcium carbide.

An investigation into the causes of the accident is under way, Transport Minister Martin Kupka said.

He added that the main train corridor connecting Prague with the second Czech city of Brno and the third city of Ostrava would remain closed for at least several hours.

Pardubice was also the site of the worst railway accident in the Czech Republic in 1960, when 118 people were killed and about 100 injured when two passenger trains collided head-on north of the town.| BGNES