Six children were killed and 24 others injured after a train crashed into a school bus at level 25 of Millas crossing near France’s border with Spain, police sources said.
The bus, which was carrying around 20 students from a local secondary school, was struck 18 km west of Perpignan city.
About 90 emergency workers, backed by four helicopters, are engaged in rescue efforts.
The train slammed into the rear of the bus cleaving it into two. One of the train passengers Barbara said the impact was so powerful that she thought the train was going to derail.
Expressing his shock over the accident, President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “All my thoughts for the victims of this terrible accident involving a school bus as well as their families. The state is fully mobilised to help them.”
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne were on their way to Millas from a meeting in the south-central city of Cahors.
“It’s a terrible event,” Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer said, expressing profound sadness.
The security service for the Pyrenees area said the train was travelling west from Perpignan to the town of Villefranche de Conflent.
The accident is the third involving several fatalities on French railways in the past four years.
In 2015, a high-speed TGV train being tested on a stretch between Paris and the northeastern city of Strasbourg derailed after hitting a bridge at 243 kilometres-per-hour, killing 11 people on board.
In 2013, seven people were killed when a commuter train crashed in a station south of Paris. A signalling defect was blamed for that crash.