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At least 150 killed in Austrian train blaze

A huge rescue operation is underway

(Keystone)

The death toll from a fire in an alpine tunnel in Austria is at least 150, according to the governor of Salzburg. The blaze engulfed a funicular train, which was carrying skiers up a mountain.

Eight passengers were reported to have escaped from the train, which is trapped deep inside a tunnel in the Kitzsteinhorn mountain, southwest of Salzburg.

The Salzburg governor, Franz Schausberger, said: "There are at least 150 dead... primarily young people, who perhaps decided early today on the spur of the moment to do some winter sports."

He added that he had declared a period of mourning in the province.

The victims are thought to have died of suffocation. Austrian television said the train was carrying an estimated 180 passengers.

A huge rescue operation, involving 13 helicopters, is underway.

The mayor of Kaprun, Norbert Karlsboeck, told Austrian television that the fire started at around 0900 local time, when the train was about 600 metres into the tunnel.

He said the cause of the fire was not known.

There have also been no details about the nationalities of the victims, although the Austrian Red Cross said Austrians and Americans were known to have been travelling on the train.

The incident comes in the wake of last year's tragedy in the Mont Blanc road tunnel between France and Italy, when 40 died after a truck caught fire.

swissinfo with agencies

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