A passenger train has derailed on a bridge over a major highway in Washington state, sending part of the train crashing down onto the highway and killing several passengers, authorities say.
- Some motorists were injured when part of the train struck several vehicles
- The derailment occurred on the first day Amtrak trains began using a new route
- The mayor of one of the towns on the route has said the high-speed trains were dangerously close to cars and pedestrians
The Amtrak train carriage plummeted onto the Interstate 5 highway south of Seattle before 8am local time on Monday.
There were about 78 passengers and five crew members on board, Amtrak said.
A spokesman for the local sheriff's office, Ed Troyer, told reporters at the scene there were "multiple" deaths but did not have a specific number to report.
He also said no motorists were killed, though some were injured when part of the train struck several vehicles.
Amtrak passenger Chris Karnes told local news outlet KIRO 7 that passengers were forced to kick out train windows in order to escape, because emergency doors were not functioning properly following the derailment.
"We had just passed the city of DuPont and it seemed like we were going around a curve," Mr Karnes said.
"All of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and it felt like we were heading down a hill.
"The next thing we know, we're being slammed into the front of our seats, windows are breaking, we stop, and there's water gushing out of the train. People were screaming."
US President Donald Trump tweeted that the crash "shows more than ever why our soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly".
Mr Trump said he would unveil his long-delayed infrastructure proposal after Congress passes its tax bill.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency due to "loss of life, injuries and damage to infrastructure".
The section of track where an Amtrak train derailed had just been upgraded as part of a $US181 million ($236 million) project for a new faster route.
The derailment occurred on the first day Amtrak trains began using the new route between the cities of Tacoma and Olympia, part of a project to reduce travel time, according to an October news release from the state's transportation department.
The new route takes trains along Interstate 5, eliminating a major choke point for passenger trains in Tacoma, the release said.
It was not immediately clear whether the derailment, which came during a busy travel time one week before the Christmas holiday, was connected to the new route.
Amtrak confirmed its train was involved and said "some injuries" had been reported but did not immediately offer further details.
A photograph posted by a Washington State Police spokeswoman showed an upside-down train car partially crushed on the highway, with a second car dangling off the overpass.
The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was gathering information about the incident.
"Thank you to the first responders on the scene," Washington Governor Jay Inslee wrote in a Twitter message.
"We're praying for everyone on board the train, and ask everyone to hold them in your thoughts."
The mayor of one of the towns through which the rerouted trains travel warned earlier this month that the high-speed trains were dangerously close to cars and pedestrians.
"Come back when there is that accident, and try to justify not putting in those safety enhancements, or you can go back now and advocate for the money to do it, because this project was never needed and endangers our citizens," Lakewood Mayor Don Anderson told transportation officials in early December, according to Seattle's KOMO News.
The post Train plunges from bridge onto US highway, killing 'multiple' people appeared first on News Wire Now.