Five people were dead and six were in critical condition after an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia on its way to New York City, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said Tuesday night a few hours after the crash.
The train derailed sometime after 9 p.m., eliciting a four-alarm response from the Philadelphia Fire Department. Seven cars of the train overturned, and about 130 people were taken to hospitals with less critical injuries, authorities said.
The train was traveling from Washington, D.C., to New York City when it derailed in the Port Richmond neighborhood.
"I've never seen anything like this in my life," Nutter told reporters. "We have train cars that are on their side, ripped apart. It is a devastating scene . . . it's unbelievable."
Nutter said most of the 238 passengers and five crew members on board were able to self-evacuate from the train. He referred to the derailment as a "level three mass casualty incident" in which 200 police personnel, 120 firefighters and emergency responders and 18 medic units were called to the scene.
One passenger, Daniel Wetrin, in an interview with CNN, said the crash was "a major impact . . . I had been thrown onto the floor in the aisle, just chaos . . . chairs spinning around . . . people were flying around . . . pretty chaotic.
"After a few seconds you come to your senses. . . . It took a few minutes before anyone could get the carriage door open . . . we all walked off."
After the crash, scores of first responders' flashlights could be seen flickering over the site where the train cars were lying on their sides, scouring the wreckage in search of the injured.
Amtrak said service between New York and Philadelphia was suspended until further notice.
The National Transportation Safety Board has organized a "go-team" that will touch down in Philadelphia early Wednesday to start investigating the crash, according to the agency's Twitter account.
At Penn Station, stranded passengers sat with their luggage late into the night and waited for updates on train service.
Meanwhile, announcements referring to "the situation" were pumped out over a loudspeaker informing passengers that Amtrak's Northeast Corridor trains aren't running due to a derailment. The announcement made no mention of deaths or injuries.
The Red Cross and officials from the city's Office of Emergency Management were standing by at Penn Station.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted about the "terrible tragedy" in Philadelphia just after midnight, adding that "NYC sends thoughts & prayers to the passengers, crew and families of those aboard @Amtrak 188."
A second tweet from the mayor aimed to help the friends and families of those involved: "If you have questions about friends or family aboard @Amtrak 188, call 800-523-9101 for information."