SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The train crash last night outside of Paris has killed at least six people and injured many more. This morning, rescue workers were still searching for bodies. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports that state rail officials say a faulty track may be to blame.
GUILLAUME PEPY: (Foreign language spoken)
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: During press conference this morning, French state rail head, Guillaume Pepy, said the cause of the accident was most probably a metal bar connecting two rails. It had become detached close to the station at Bretigny-sur-Orge, an hour south of Paris. Franck Paul Weber is the head of international communications for the French rail company, the SNCF.
FRANCK PAUL WEBER: It's a kind of heavy piece of metal of about 10 kilos, and it's blocked, seemingly, some cars of the train and it let it derail.
BEARDSLEY: Some analysts have criticized the SNCF for investing heavily in high-speed rail to the detriment of traditional lines. In any case, human error has been ruled out. The conductor is being praised for his quick reflexes. He sounded the alarm immediately, averting a collision with another train coming in the opposite direction which would have hit the derailing cars within seconds.
The train was travelling a busy rail line from Paris to Limoges when several cars derailed, some flipping over or crashing into the station platform. Witnesses interviewed on television described it total chaos.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV NEWS SHOW)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)
BEARDSLEY: Part of the train kept going and the other part smashed up on the platform, says one witness. It was total horror. People screaming, blood splattered everywhere and people dying because they were stuck under the rail cars, says another witness. Officials say the death toll is not yet final. They're waiting for the arrival of a giant crane that will pick up the wreckage to make sure there are no bodies underneath.
The accident is the worst in France in 25 years and has shocked a country that is proud of its extensive and generally safe passenger rail system. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.