Five persons died and 44 were injured in the accident, which occurred just after midday on Friday (3rd June), as students were returning to their homes in the southern German regions of Baden Wurtemburg and Bavaria ahead of the Pentecost holidays.
Four of the deceased are women, while emergency operations had to be performed on a number of seriously injured children.
According to the police, the regional train was full, with about 140 persons on board. It had just left the well-known mountain station of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, bound for the Bavarian regional capital of Munich, when the accident occurred in the Burgrain area.
What caused the train to derail?
It was not immediately clear what caused the train travelling from the Alpine ski resort of Garmisch-Partenkirchen toward Munich to derail at about 12:20 local time (10:20 UTC).
Images from the scene showed several carriages overturned, intertwined with tree branches and partly rolled down an embankment.
Six rescue helicopters were in use to bring the injured to hospitals for treatment, according to a spokesperson for the ADAC Air Rescue service.
Part of the route between Munich and Garmisch-Partenkirchen has been blocked off and traffic is being diverted. A police spokesperson said the train tracks and neighbouring highway may have to remain closed into the weekend.
Politicians offer condolences
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he was shocked by the news and images of the accident.
“Our sympathy is with the relatives, with the injured, to whom we wish a speedy recovery,” he told broadcasters RTL and ntv.
The state premier of Bavaria, Markus Söder, said on Saturday during a visit to the site of the accident that it was an “incomprehensible thing to happen.”
“We hope very much that there are no further deaths,” he said, adding that such an accident was always a shock and a “blow to the heart.”
Transport Minister Volker Wissing, who will visit the area on Saturday, said his ministry was in close contact with rail operator Deutsche Bahn and “providing support wherever we can.”
“My thoughts are with the relatives and injured,” he said. “Our experts are already on-site to work with the investigating authorities to determine the cause of the accident.”