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Four still in hospital after deadly French Alps train crash

The Train des Pignes after the accident
The Train des Pignes after the accident Reuters/Olivier Anrigo

Four people were still in hospital - one in a serious condition - Sunday after the previous day's deadly rail crash in the French Alps. The accident, caused by a falling boulder, was "unpredictable" and nobody's fault, France's transport minister said.

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Four people who had not suffered serious injuries had left hospital by Sunday but four remained, officials said.

One of those still hospitalised was in a serious but stable condition.

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A 49-year-old Russian woman tourist and a local woman in her 80s died in the crash.

The Russian woman's 56-year-old husband, who said that they had come from Moscow, was reported to be in a state of shock.

The accident occurred because a huge boulder weighing about 20 tonnes rolled down the mountain and hit the train.

"It's rainy and snowy in the region and so a boulder was dislodged, rolled down the mountain and collided with the train," Pierrette Ponchon, the co-manager of the Hotel Beauséjour in Annot, 10 minutes from the site of the derailment, told RFI.

One of the carriages would have fallen into a ravine if trees had not caught it.

"It's normal for there to be snow at this time of year and sometimes small rocks fall down the mountain, but they're quickly cleared away," Ponchong says. "So people are surprised, because it's the first time anything like this has happened. They're also shocked, because one of the victims was a woman from Annot, who'd come to live in the town not so long ago."

The accident could not have been predicted and there was "no lack of vigilance", Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier declared when he visited the victims in the Nice hospital where they had been taken.

The track was inspected on 14 January, he said.

The carriages were still caught in rockfall on Sunday and safety precautions needed to be taken before they could be moved, sources said.

The rail service, popular with tourists and known as the Train des Pignes, started in 1911.

It travels 151 kilometres through spectacular mountain scenery, going through 25 tunnels and over about 30 bridges and viaducts, between Nice and Digne-les-Bains.

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