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Four children killed after train hits school bus on French rail crossing

A regional train has hit a school bus on a crossing in southern France, killing four children and critically injuring seven other people on the bus.

Photos from the scene showed the train derailed and the bus cut in half.

It was not immediately clear why the accident happened on the crossing in Millas, nine miles west of Perpignan, close to the border with Spain.

France's SNCF national rail authority said witnesses described the crossing gates as functioning properly.

Regional President Carole Delga told broadcaster France-Info that "it appears that there was no mechanical problem at this crossing".

The school bus was taking children home from the Christian Bourquin school in the small village of Millas. It was carrying around 20 children aged between 11 and 15, the local authority said.

Psychological help is being offered in a local sports hall from Friday morning.

Nine other people on the bus and three on the train had less severe injuries.

An SNCF official said that the train was carrying 25 people including passengers and crew and all are accounted for and being offered psychological care. The official added that the train normally travels at 80km per hour at that location.

The official said "several witnesses said the barrier was down" at the time of the crash. She said the people on the train were "totally shocked".

Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne and Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer were at the scene on Thursday evening along with 70 firefighters, 10 emergency ambulances and four helicopters.

Mr Blanquer tweeted: "France is in mourning."

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe also arrived at the scene on Thursday evening.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: "All my thoughts go to the victims of this terrible accident and their families. The government is fully mobilised to give them emergency help."

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From Belfast Telegraph