Swiss tourist train derails, killing 1

Switzerland's popular Glacier Expess tourist train has derailed in the Alps, killing one person and injuring 42 others.

42 people, mostly Japanese tourists, injured

Rescuers give an interview in front of damaged carriages of the Glacier Express passenger train at the accident site in Fiesch, Switzerland, on Friday. ((Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone/Associated Press))

Switzerland's popular Glacier Express tourist train derailed Friday in the Alps, killing one person and injuring 42 others on its spectacular journey between Zermatt and St. Moritz.

Police said six of the injured were in serious condition and most of the passengers were Japanese tourists. Rescue workers were seen loading a few injured passengers onto medical helicopters to be flown out for treatment in Lausanne and Geneva. Police declined to identify the person who died.

Rail interruptions, let alone accidents, are rare in Switzerland.

The Glacier Express — dubbed the "slowest express train in the world" — is known as much for its majestic mountain climbs as for its pedestrian 30 kilometres an hour average speed.

Rail traffic closed

Valais authorities said two of the train cars drove off the tracks and a third tipped over, but the cause of the accident wasn't immediately known. The three cars were at the back of the train and the derailment took place near the town of Fiesch and the mouth of the Aletsch glacier, Europe's largest ice mass.

Rail traffic remained closed near the accident site Friday evening and local police were investigating.

The 80-year-old Glacier Express runs several times a day all year round, carrying some 250,000 passengers a year.

It starts in Zermatt, at the base of Switzerland's iconic Matterhorn mountain, and rumbles through terrain almost two kilometres above sea level, surrounded by many of the highest Alpine peaks. After 7½ hours, 291 bridges and 91 tunnels, it ends in St. Moritz — one of the world's ritziest winter resorts. 

The accident was the country's worst rail mishap since 2006, when three men died after a runaway train travelled for kilometres without brakes before crashing into another train.