At least 3 killed and 50 hurt in US train derailment: Officials

Amtrak said that five cars on an Empire Builder train had derailed in Montana at roughly 4pm local time. PHOTOS: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTIMES, REUTERS) - At least three people were killed and 50 others were injured after an Amtrak train derailed in Montana on Saturday (Sept 25) afternoon, setting off a frantic response by rescuers who scrambled to extricate passengers from cars, US authorities said.

Amtrak said that eight cars on an Empire Builder train had derailed at roughly 4pm local time near Joplin, Montana, which is about 200 miles north of Helena. The train had departed from Chicago and was bound for Seattle.

About 141 passengers and 16 crew members were on board, "with injuries reported," Amtrak said in a statement. The train consisted of two locomotives and 10 cars.

"Amtrak is working with the local authorities to transport injured passengers, and safely evacuate all other passengers," the rail service said in a statement.

The National Transportation Safety Board said late on Saturday it will investigate the incident.

The Liberty County Sheriff's Office said that three people were confirmed dead.

Amanda Frickel, the disaster and emergency services coordinator for Hill County, Montana, said in an interview that "well over" 50 people had been injured.

Frickel said that rescuers from six counties were responding to the scene and that as many as five hospitals were on standby to receive injured passengers. There were also a number of medical helicopters standing by, she said.

"Everybody who is alive has been extricated from the wreck," Ms Frickel said.

Officials had evacuated survivors to two separate sites and were doing a head count. Emergency responders planned to put people up in hotels once their medical needs had been seen to.

"Every county around is assisting," said Sheriff Donna Whitt of Toole County, Montana.

Austin Knudsen, Montana's attorney general, said that Montana Highway Patrol troopers were among those helping with the rescue efforts.

"We are praying for the safety of all passengers and crew who were on board," he said.

Amtrak said Empire Builder trains originating on Saturday are cancelled between Minot, North Dakota, and Shelby, Montana, while on Sunday, the westbound Empire Builder train will terminate in Minneapolis and an eastbound Empire Builder train will originate in Minneapolis.

While derailments of Amtrak trains are rare, there have been deadly crashes in recent years.

In 2018, three people died after an Amtrak train travelled on the wrong track in South Carolina and slammed into a parked freight train. That same year, a train carrying Republican members of Congress hit a garbage truck in rural Virginia, killing a passenger in the truck.

In 2015, an Amtrak train that had been travelling at more than 160kmh, twice the speed limit, careened off a curve in Philadelphia, killing eight people and injuring more than 200.

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