Three people dead after passenger train collides with freight train in Belgium

Local media reports suggest 9 people were injured, which occurred late last night

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Rescue workers stand near the wreckage of a train crash in Hermalle-sous-Huy, near Liege, Belgium. Image: Virginia Mayo / AP/Press Association Images

A passenger train has collided with a freight train in eastern Belgium, killing three people and injuring nine others.

Belgian officials said the train slammed into the back of the goods train, as it was travelling at high speed on the same track.

The Belga news agency reported that several passengers had to be extracted from the wreckage following the "very violent" collision, which derailed two of the passenger train's six carriages.

Nine passengers were injured, with some described as being in a critical condition.

A further 27 people were being cared for. The number of injured was originally said to be 40 - roughly the total number on board.

Emergency services and reinforcements remain at the site of the crash, where a crisis centre has also been set up.

The train was travelling from the west to the east of Belgium on the Namur-Liege line when the accident occurred in the municipality of Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse at 9pm Irish time (11pm local time).

Local mayor Francis Dejon said: "The passenger train is really in a bad way, it's stunning.

"The front carriage is scrunched back up on itself. We were very lucky not to have more victims," he told the Belgian news agency Belga.

"Two of the six carriages derailed and are lying on the tracks," Infrabel and the National Railway Company of Belgium (SNCB) said in a joint statement.

A person who had been on board described the scene as "chaos" to the local daily newspaper L'Avenir, saying that the front two carriages had been destroyed.

The circumstances of the accident were not immediately clear, with questions remaining over whether the passenger train was able to brake before the crash.

"The priority is to care for the victims," Infrabel and SNCB said, but added that information was already being analysed to determine how the crash took place.

In February 2010, 18 people were killed and 95 injured when two trains collided in a Brussels suburb in one of Europe's deadliest railway accidents of the past decade.

More recently, one person was killed and nearly 50 injured when a train carrying highly toxic chemicals derailed and exploded near the city of Ghent in May 2013.