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An Amtrak train carrying 147 people has collided with a goods train in the US state of South Carolina, killing two people and injuring 116 others.

The two fatalities were both members of Amtrak staff, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster has confirmed.

He said the incident – the latest in a series in recent years – should trigger a national debate about rail safety.

Just four days ago, a lorry driver was killed when his vehicle hit a train carrying lawmakers in Virginia.

The South Carolina crash happened at 02:35 local time (07:35 GMT) in the town of Cayce, just outside the state capital Columbia. The train was travelling from New York and heading for Miami, when it hit the goods train, causing its lead engine and several carriages to derail.

Governor McMaster said it appeared the Amtrak train had been on the wrong track at the time of the crash.

The American Red Cross sent rescue workers to the scene of the collision, and emergency services say all passengers have been evacuated from the train.

Mr McMaster said 116 people were taken to hospital for treatment. An emergency official earlier told reporters the injuries ranged in severity from small scratches to broken bones.

A shelter has been set up at a nearby school for passengers to get assistance.

According to Amtrak, 139 passengers and eight staff members were aboard the train. According to Governor McMaster, no-one was aboard the goods train, run by freight operator CSX. He said it was stationary on track at the time of the crash.

An estimated 5,000 gallons (22,000 litres) of fuel was spilled from the CSX train but emergency officials said there was no threat to the public.

“The incident is very near the state farmers’ market and other residential areas but right now, everyone is safe,” Derrec Becker, a spokesman at for the state emergency department, said.

One passenger, Derek Pettaway, told CNN he had been travelling from Philadelphia to Orlando in a sleeper cabin when he had been awoken by the impact of the crash.

The train’s staff evacuated passengers in a “really calm fashion”, he said.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was investigating the incident.

The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed, with spokeswoman Lindsay Walters telling reporters: “Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone that has been affected by this incident.”

South Carolina senator Tim Scott wrote on Twitter: “My prayers are with the families of those killed in the train crash in Lexington County this morning, and hoping for the best for all those injured. South Carolina is with you all!”

Concerns about safety standards on the US rail network have been raised after a number of fatal train crashes in recent years:

  • February 2018: Crozet, Virginia. A lorry driver died after his vehicle hit a chartered Amtrak train carrying Republican lawmakers, including House Speaker Paul Ryan
  • December 2017: Seattle, Washington. Three people killed when a passenger train plunged off a bridge after hitting a 30mph (50km/h) curve at 80mph
  • March 2017 – Biloxi, Mississippi. Four people died when the bus they were travelling in got stuck on train tracks and was hit by a freight train
  • May 2015 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A passenger train derailed, killing eight people
  • January 2015 – Austin, Texas. A prison bus carrying 12 inmates and three officers skidded off a bridge and hit a freight train, killing 10 people on the bus
  • December 2013 – The Bronx, New York City. Four people died when the driver of a passenger train fell asleep and the train took a 30mph curve at 82mph, then derailed

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