Seven dead after train and bus collide at Slovakia level-crossing

Passengers walk away from a train that is on fire at one end, with one man leaving the train with his bicycle.
The train was the EuroCity 279 service travelling from Prague to Budapest [Reuters]

Seven people have been killed and five injured after an international express train collided with a bus on a level crossing in southern Slovakia, officials say.

The Slovak ambulance service said all those who died had been travelling on the bus.

They had been badly burnt in the subsequent fire and it was proving difficult to identify their remains, said Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok.

Thursday's accident happened near the town of Nove Zamky, about 80km (50 miles) east of the capital Bratislava, just after 17:00 local time (16:00 BST).

About 200 people were on the train and nine on the bus at the time of the collision, officials said.

The Arriva bus was sliced in two by the impact.

The drivers of both the bus and the train were among the injured.

Photos showed the locomotive on fire and passengers walking to safety along the tracks.

Emergency personnel work at the site of the collision
The bus was sliced in half my the impact of the collision [Reuters]

The train was the regular EuroCity 279 service travelling from Prague to Budapest via Bratislava.

It was operated by a Czech Railways locomotive pulling Slovak Railways carriages.

Czech Railways praised the actions of its driver, who it said had prevented injuries to train passengers by taking prompt action to avoid derailment.

He is understood to have jumped into the control room seconds before impact, and suffered burns in the subsequent fire.

According to an Arriva spokeswoman quoted in the Slovak media, the bus driver had over 30 years of experience.

Local media published video footage of passengers carrying luggage alongside a train partially in flames, as thick grey smoke rose to the sky.

An investigation is under way to establish the cause of the accident, with some reports saying the flashing lights and barriers at the level crossing had been out of action following a recent storm.

Other eyewitness reports say the lights were working, the barriers had been lowered, and vehicles were waiting behind them.

However, they said the barriers were subsequently raised, and the bus proceeded to cross when it was struck by the speeding train.

Slovak Railways has not commented on the claims.

Mr Estok, who attended the scene, wrote on social media that "a little inattention is enough and life can change in a hundredth of a second - forever".

"Let this sad event be a reminder for all of us to pay attention to safety on the roads and at railroad crossings."

Passenger Katarina Molnarova told AFP that just as she left Nove Zamky station she felt and heard a crash and bang.

"After a couple of minutes we were able to get off," the 43-year-old cosmetician said.

"We saw that the frontal part of the train was on fire".

She added that there was "no screaming or panicking" and that passengers took their luggage and walked to the road.

Five ambulances and three air ambulances were dispatched to the scene, emergency services said.