Several injured as Amtrak passenger train derails in Washington

An Amtrak passenger train derailed on a bridge over a major highway in Washington state on Monday morning, leaving at least one train car dangling onto the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 and injuring several people, according to authorities.

The derailment occurred on the first day that Amtrak trains began using a new track 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.

Part of the train fell onto the interstate around 7:30 a.m. (1530 GMT), causing several injuries, The News Tribune reported. The local newspaper did not have further details on the nature or extent of the injuries, and no deaths were immediately reported.

A photograph posted on Twitter by the Washington State Department of Transportation showed a train car that had apparently veered off a bridge onto the highway below. The agency said southbound lanes were closed, and warned drivers to avoid the area.

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Twitter that it was gathering information about the incident.

The train had been scheduled to leave Seattle at 6 a.m. (1400 GMT) and arrive in Portland, Oregon, at 9:20 a.m. (1720 GMT), according to an Amtrak timetable. Monday was the first day that Amtrak offered a 6 a.m. departure on its Amtrak Cascades line as part of the rerouting project.

About 70 people were aboard the train, local news media reported, citing the state transportation department.

Authorities warned drivers to avoid the area, and the southbound lanes remained closed.

“Thank you to the first responders on the scene. We’re praying for everyone on board the train, and ask everyone to hold them in your thoughts,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee wrote in a Twitter message.

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.

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