Four Slovaks, Ukrainians die in Czech train crash, more than 20 injured

By Jason Hovet and Jan Lopatka

PRAGUE (Reuters) -Four people from Slovakia and Ukraine were killed and more than 20 injured when a passenger express train and a freight train collided in the Czech city of Pardubice late on Wednesday, emergency and government officials said.

In addition to the deaths, three people were seriously hurt and at least 20 suffered light injuries in the crash, which occurred around 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on the main rail corridor from Prague to the east, Interior Minister Vit Rakusan said.

The Ex 1021 express train, operated by the Czech private service RegioJet, was travelling overnight from Prague to Kosice in eastern Slovakia and onward to the Ukrainian town of Chop, according to the Czech Railway Administration.

The passenger train had failed to stop at a red light, the Rail Safety Inspection Office said, adding that it was likely to take months to ascertain whether the cause was human error or a technical fault.

The dead were two Slovak women and two women from Ukraine, the Slovak and Ukrainian foreign ministries said. Czech police did not reveal any details on the victims.

RegioJet offered support and compensation to the victims in a statement expressing its sorrow.

"We will do everything for a proper investigation," its owner Radim Jancura said.

Rescue services said more than 300 passengers had been on board, and dozens of police, fire and emergency service units helped to evacuate the carriages.

Footage released by the fire brigade showed that at least one sleeper carriage had been mangled and left the track, and that both trains' locomotives were damaged.

Czech Television cited a fire brigade spokesperson as saying the freight train was carrying the industrial chemical calcium carbide, but that no leak had occurred as the first two wagons were empty.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet and Jan Lopatka, additional reporting by Anastasiia Malenko in Kyiv; Editing by Chris Reese, Stephen Coates and Kevin Liffey)