Emergency services are responding to the “extremely serious” incident after being called to the scene around 9.40am on Wednesday.
Three people are now believed to have died after a train derailment in
Aberdeenshire, while one person is unaccounted for, sources told the PA news agency.
Emergency services are responding to the “extremely serious” incident near Stonehaven after being called to the scene around 9.40am on Wednesday.
Footage posted on social media showed smoke billowing above trees surrounding the railway line.
A number of ambulances and a emergency helicopters were pictured parked in a nearby field.
Rail industry sources told PA that the suspected cause of the incident was a landslip.
The train involved was said to be the six-carriage 6.38am Aberdeen to Stonehaven service.
Twelve people – six passengers and six staff – were on board.
The Scottish Ambulance Service said they had deployed six ambulances, special operations response teams, an air ambulance, and patient transport vehicles.
Scottish Fire and Rescue crews were also in attendance, while coastguard teams were sent from nearby locations, along with a coastguard search and rescue helicopter from Prestwick.
Industry sources told PA three people, including the driver, have died, although that has yet to be officially confirmed, and one person remains missing.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the derailment of the ScotRail passenger train as an “extremely serious incident”.
“I’ve had an initial report from Network Rail and the emergency services and am being kept updated,” she posted on Twitter.
“All my thoughts are with those involved.”
Speaking later during First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Ms Sturgeon said there had been “early reports of serious injuries” as she revealed a “major incident” had been declared.
Thunderstorms had caused flooding across Aberdeenshire on Wednesday, prompting the cancellation of some rail services and the shutting of a number of schools.
At 9.49am on Wednesday, Network Rail Scotland posted a video of a landslip and flooding on rail tracks at Carmont.
Smoke rising from the scene of the derailment suggested it occurred near to a bend in the tracks close to Carmont.
“At Carmont, we’ve had reports of a landslip, which means services can’t operate between Dundee & Aberdeen,” Network Rail Scotland had posted on Twitter.
It is unclear whether the landslip was directly related to the incident.
Commenting on the suspected reasons of the crash, Nigel Harris, the editor of Rail magazine, told Sky News: “Somewhere south of Stonehaven the driver – the weather was apparently appalling – he encountered an obstruction, a landslide, on the track and had to reverse his train and go back along the way he’d come.
“And then go onto his own line and head back north towards Aberdeen, at which point he ran into another landslide which had clearly happened after he had passed by in a southerly direction.
“That then caused this terrible incident.”
At Carmont, we’ve had reports of a landslip, which means services can’t operate between Dundee & Aberdeen. /2 pic.twitter.com/1E29tKHFhy
— Network Rail Scotland (@NetworkRailSCOT) August 12, 2020
Local journalist Lewis Michie, speaking to Sky News from the scene shortly before 1pm, said there were “still a lot of emergency services arriving” at that time.
He described how the area could only be reached by a “very, very narrow” road, while the train line running through the area had “very, very steep” embankments.
“The issue here at the moment, it seems to me, is that this is possibly the most inaccessible area this could have happened,” he said.
He added: “This morning it was probably the worst flooding I have seen in the northeast for a long, long time.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “saddened to learn of the very serious incident in Aberdeenshire and my thoughts are with all of those affected”.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he had held an urgent meeting with rail operators about the Stonehaven derailment.
“British Transport Police & Network Rail are on location, along with rail workers who were nearby,” the UK cabinet minister posted on Twitter.
“The UK Government will provide every support. My thoughts are with those involved and their families.
Network Rail Scotland said they were “working alongside the emergency services to respond to an incident involving a train near Stonehaven”.
A spokesperson added: “It is too early to confirm the exact nature and severity of the incident and more details will be made available once known.”
Andrew Bowie, the Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, said he had spoken by telephone to Mr Shapps.
The local MP, who said a major incident had been declared at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, had been in Stonehaven surveying flood damage earlier on Wednesday.
Mr Bowie told Sky News: “We had torrential rain in this part of the world last night.
“Stonehaven saw terrible flooding in the town centre, saw many roads closed off and water coming into houses and businesses.
“Obviously it’s too early to speculate as to whether that had an effect on what we’re seeing just south of here.
“But the area has been battered over the last 24 hours.”
He said the train derailment had occurred in an “incredibly rural area”.
“It’s an area of beautiful farmland, forests and it will make accessing the site incredibly difficult for the emergency services,” he added.
I am saddened to learn of the very serious incident in Aberdeenshire and my thoughts are with all of those affected. My thanks to the emergency services at the scene.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 12, 2020
A spokesperson for NHS Grampian said: “We can confirm we are on a major incident footing following an incident involving a train near Stonehaven.
“We have well-rehearsed protocols and procedures for dealing with such incidents and are working closely with emergency service partners.”
The Rail Accident Investigation Branch, the independent investigator, said it was sending a team of inspectors to the site to conduct a preliminary examination.
Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines was said to be cutting short a family holiday in Italy in order to visit the crash site on Thursday.
The last time a train crash caused a passenger or member of staff’s death in the UK was at Grayrigg, Cumbria, in February 2007.
Mick Lynch, the assistant general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union said: “RMT is aware of the major incident at Stonehaven and our reps are liaising directly at senior level with both Scotrail and Network Rail.
“Our priority at this time is to support our members, their colleagues and their families and to do all that we can to assist the rescue operation which RMT members are currently involved in.
“The facts behind this incident will need to be established in due course but at this stage we are focused on support and assistance and our thoughts are with all those impacted by this tragedy.”