More than 250 rescue workers cleared debris yesterday from the tangled wreckage of a passenger train that collided head-on with a freight train near France's border with Luxembourg, but no more victims were found overnight, officials said.
Five people were killed and 16 injured, two of them seriously, in the crash that occurred just before midday on Wednesday, lifting one of the passenger train's cars on top of another and leaving a pile of crumpled metal on the tracks at Zoufftgen, about 2km south of the border. The cause of the crash remained unclear.
Two big cranes were to pull the two trains apart yesterday, after a bulldozer worked to clear the site overnight, authorities of France's eastern Lorraine region said. Rescuers had confirmed five victims and held out no hope that any survivors remained trapped inside.
"The chances of finding survivors is diminishing by the hour," said Colonel Bernard Franoz, a fire officer coordinating the task.
"Unfortunately, it's still possible we might discover other bodies," another official said. "The toll won't be finalized until we've finished the operations of cutting open all the wagons."
The total number of passengers aboard the train was not known, and French police said it would take until at least yesterday afternoon to rule out any other victims.
Police said the dead were two train drivers, a person who was working on the tracks and two passengers.
Authorities warned of possible traffic jams yesterday on the busy stretch of highway between France and Luxembourg. A bus service was introduced between Thionville and Luxembourg to replace the trains.
The double-decker passenger train was traveling from Luxembourg to the French city of Nancy. The line it was traveling on was being repaired, so it switched onto a second track, hitting the oncoming freight train, France's SNCF rail operator said.
The two trains had collided with such impact that the locomotive of the freight train had mounted the front of the passenger train, sending several wagons scissoring out into woods alongside the track.
Top officials, including French Prime Ministers Dominique de Villepin and his counterpart from Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, visited the scene of the crash on Wednesday.