A train and a school bus have collided near Perpignan in southern France, killing at least four children, the interior ministry says.
A train has ploughed into a school bus at a crossing in south-west France, killing at least four children and injuring more than 20 others, nine critically.
Most of the victims were reported to be aged between 13 and 17.
Pictures from the scene showed the school bus sheared in two by the force of the crash.
Around 70 emergency workers and four helicopters were deployed as part of the rescue effort.
A witness who was on the train, named as Barbara, said “it was a very violent crash – it seemed as if the train would derail
Casualties were being taken to hospital in Perpignan. Rail travel is severely disrupted.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, also tweeted his condolences. “My thoughts go out to the victims of this terrible accident involving a school bus and their families. The state is doing everything in its power to support the rescue operation,” Macron wrote.
A spokeswoman for France’s national rail company, SNCF, said the train was running at 80km/h (50mph) at the time of the accident and 25 people were on board. Three of those were slightly injured.
Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer will visit a counselling centre that has been set up at the Christian Bourquin College in Millas on Friday.
A statement from his office said he would visit “to support students, families, teachers and the entire educational community”.
In a tweet, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “All my thoughts for the victims of this terrible accident involving a school bus, as well as their families. The state is fully mobilised to help them.”
It said further information would be released when available.
The accident was one of the worst involving a vehicle carrying children since 1982 when a coach taking youngsters on a holiday caught fire at Beaune in central France, killing 53 people, 44 of them children.
In 2016, there were 111 collisions between trains and vehicles at railroad crossings in France, killing 31. Around 90 percent of accidents involve cars or ‘light’ vehicles, and in almost all cases the vehicle driver is reported to be responsible.