One person died and 30 passengers were injured when a train derailed near The Hague in the early hours of Tuesday, sending two carriages into a field next to the track, Dutch emergency services said.
Television images showed people using makeshift bridges to cross a canal running alongside the rails to reach the train in the darkness.
Many windows in the train carriages were broken but it was not clear if that happened during the accident or as passengers attempted to escape.
Photos from the scene showed two of the bright yellow and blue train carriages perpendicular to the tracks lying across a small canal and partially in a field.
The four-carriage train was carrying about 50 passengers at the time of the crash.
A freight train was also stopped on the track close to the wreckage of the passenger train between the cities of Leiden and The Hague.
The exact cause of the accident that happened at around 3.25am local time in the town of Voorschoten was not immediately clear.
Railway company NS said in a statement said a passenger train, a freight train and a construction crane were involved in a collision but the company gave no further details.
“Like everyone else, I’m full of questions and we want to know exactly what happened,” NS chief executive Wouter Koolmees said.
“A thorough investigation must be carried out. At the moment, all attention is focused on the well-being of our travellers and colleagues.”
The regional co-ordinator of emergency services said that 11 of the injured passengers were treated in homes near the line and the others were taken in a fleet of ambulances to hospitals, including a “calamity hospital” opened in the central city of Utrecht.
The local fire brigade tweeted after the crash that it appeared to be a collision between a passenger train and “building material”.
“A terrible train accident near Voorschoten, where unfortunately one person died and many people were injured. My thoughts are with the relatives and with all the victims. I wish them all the best,” Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said in a tweet.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima also expressed their sympathy in a tweet.
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