STONEHAVEN, SCOTLAND (REUTERS) - Three people have been pronounced dead at the scene after a train derailed in Scotland on Wednesday (Aug 12), police said.
Six others were taken to hospital but their injuries were not thought to be serious, British Transport Police added in a statement.
"Very sadly, despite the best efforts of paramedics, we can confirm that three people have been pronounced dead at the scene," the statement said, adding that the driver of the train was believed to have been among them.
Dark smoke billowed from a woodland area at the bottom of a narrow valley near Stonehaven, just south of the city of Aberdeen, after the ScotRail train derailed in the morning following heavy rain overnight.
Two air ambulances and about 30 emergency service vehicles could be seen in a field just above the site of the derailment, which appeared to be difficult to access.
The stricken train could not be seen on television footage.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was saddened to learn of the "very serious incident" in Aberdeenshire and his thoughts were with all those affected.
PA Media earlier said three people were believed to have died in the accident while a fourth was missing.
"Although details are still emerging I am afraid to say there are early reports of serious injuries," Premier Nicola Sturgeon said.
"This is an extremely serious incident. I've had an initial report from Network Rail and the emergency services and am being kept updated. All my thoughts are with those involved."
Police received reports of a train derailing near Stonehaven, 15km south of Aberdeen, at 9.40am on Wednesday.
The BBC reported that the train was made up of two locomotives, one at the front and one at the back, and four passenger carriages. It said the front locomotive and three of the carriages had left the track and were sitting on a river embankment.
Stonehaven and the surrounding area had been hit by floods in recent days and some reports suggested a landslide may have played a part in the derailment, although that was not confirmed by the authorities.
"Emergency services are currently in attendance and the incident is ongoing," a Police Scotland spokeswoman said.
Britain has one of Europe's lowest rates of fatal rail accidents, with a stronger safety record than Germany or France in recent years, according to Eurostat data that includes unauthorised people on railway tracks and at level crossings.
For passengers, European railways are very safe, with just 13 rail passenger deaths across the European Union's 28 member states in 2018, according to the most recent available data from Eurostat. One of those was in Britain.
The worst rail disasters in Britain in recent decades were a 1999 collision between two trains at Ladbroke Grove, in London, in which 31 people died, and a 2001 accident near Selby in Yorkshire, northeast England, in which 10 people died after a car ran onto the track and was hit by two trains.