LONDON >> A passenger train derailed in northeast Scotland after stormy weather, killing three people and injuring six others today, authorities said.
The train’s driver is believed to be among the dead, but formal identification has yet to take place, the British Transport Police force said. Six people were hospitalized, but their injuries are not considered serious.
“I would like to reassure the public that this was not a busy service, and from (closed circuit television) inquiries and witness statements we believe all passengers have been accounted for,” British Transport Police chief superintendent Eddie Wylie said. “However, once the area has been made safe, then a full and thorough search will be conducted, which is likely to take some time.”
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the derailment as a “major″ incident and said she would be convening an emergency response meeting.
The transport police said officers were called at 9:43 a.m. to the railway line near the coastal town of Stonehaven, about 100 miles northeast of Edinburgh and south of Aberdeen.
Smoke could be seen billowing from the wreck. Photos showed that several cars of the four-carriage train had left the tracks and tumbled down an embankment. Air ambulances and coast guard helicopters came and went as the rescue operation unfolded.
Local lawmaker Andrew Bowie had been in Stonehaven surveying flood damage earlier today.
“The situation was really bad this morning. The River Carron, the main river which flows through it, had burst its banks, and the heavy rain had caused flooding in the center of Stonehaven and lots of the side streets leading off it,″ he said.
Bowie added that the water had receded and it was unclear if flooding was connected to the derailment.
“I don’t think speculation is helpful at this stage,″ he said. “We obviously don’t know why the derailment took place, but obviously we have suffered terrible weather here.”
Serious train accidents are rare in the U.K. The country’s last fatal derailment was in 2007.
The head of Network Rail cut short a family vacation to return to the UK. The chief inspector of railways, Ian Prosser, said inspectors were at the site and assisting in the preliminary investigation.
“We will work with other agencies, including the emergency services, to find out exactly what happened and identify the causes of this tragic incident,” he said
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “I am saddened to learn of the very serious incident in Aberdeenshire and my thoughts are with all of those affected. My thanks to the emergency services at the scene.”