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'Faulty Tracks' Caused French Train Crash

Rescuers work through the night at the site of a deadly train crash near Paris on July 12.
France's national rail company says a train derailment outside Paris that left six people dead and dozens injured was likely caused by a fault in the rail tracks.

Pierre Izard, an official with the SNCF rail company, told reporters on July 13 that investigators found that a metal bar connecting two rails had become detached.

Izard said the bar "broke away" and that "it became detached and came out of its housing." He added that the bar "lodged itself at the center of the switch, prevented the normal progression of the train's wheels and seems to have caused the train's derailment."

SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy said the company had ordered checks of some 5,000 similar parts on its network.

Earlier on July 13, France's Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier ruled out human error for the deadly train derailment.

Cuvillier praised the train's driver who he said had exhibited "absolutely extraordinary reflexes by sending the alert immediately," preventing a collision with an oncoming train.

Cuvillier said the train had been traveling at 137 kilometers per hour at the time of the crash -- below the 150 kilometer per hour limit.

Around 30 people were injured in the incident, eight of them seriously.

Speaking on July 13, local prefect Michel Fuzeau indicated that he expected the death toll to increase as clearance work at the crash site progressed.

"The death toll is provisional because we are waiting for a very strong crane, which is coming from the north of France and which is very difficult to install but we haven't found any other solutions," he said.

The high-speed train carrying 385 people derailed in the town of Bretigny-sur-Orge, some 20 kilometers from Paris, on the evening of July 12.

In describing the derailment, eyewitness Sandrine Abraham told reporters that she had been "overtaken by panic." She added that that she thought there were more fatalities than the six which had initially been announced.

The crash -- in which the train smashed into a station platform -- has been described as the worst rail accident in France in some 25 years.

Based on reporting by dpa, AFP, and AP