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12 killed as fire sweeps through France train

Nancy (France), Nov. 6 (Reuters): Fire swept through a sleeping car on a Paris-Vienna express train today, killing 12 people, including two children, and injuring nine others, the French railways said.

Railway staff in the northeastern city of Nancy saw smoke billowing from the car as it passed through the station at around 2.15 am (0015 GMT).

They sounded an alarm and cut electrical power, stopping the train about a kilometre beyond the station. “The station staff noticed one of the cars had smoke in it,” a local official told France Info radio. Rescue workers rushed to the train.

“They realised on opening the doors that there was a fire and a certain number of people were already dead,” he said. Five Americans, three Germans and two Russians were killed, French SNCF railway chief Louis Gallois said.

The US victims included an eight-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl. A Greek and a Hungarian also died. Public prosecutors launched an inquiry into the fire. Neither French nor German railways confirmed the cause. “There are other theories, perhaps human causes,” Gallois said. A German passenger told France Inter radio he escaped from another sleeping car after smelling the smoke and saw the burning car's conductor.

“The German conductor who was in charge of the car was in the corridor, very shocked and in panic, and he said several times in German: ‘I can't get into my car, my passengers will die’,” the man said. “There were red and orange flames two metres high coming out from both sides and lots of smoke. We heard people screaming. I suppose they were trapped inside.”

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