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Media captionAerial footage: passenger train derailment in Aberdeenshire

Three people, including the driver, have died after a passenger train derailed in Aberdeenshire.

A major incident was declared and about 30 emergency service vehicles were called to the scene near Stonehaven.

It is thought the train hit a landslide after heavy rain and thunderstorms which caused flooding and travel disruption across Scotland.

Six people have been taken to hospital, although their injuries are not believed to be serious.

The incident involved the 06:38 ScotRail service from Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Street.

British Transport Police said the driver’s family had been informed and were being supported by specially-trained liaison officers.

Efforts were continuing to inform the families of the other two people who died.

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The derailment took place on the line west of Stonehaven

Ch Supt Eddie Wylie said emergency services were still at the scene dealing with the “major incident”.

“I would like to reassure the public that this was not a busy service and from CCTV inquiries and witness statements we believe all passengers have been accounted for,” he said.

“Once the area has been made safe then a full and thorough search will be conducted, which is likely to take some time.

“I know many people will understandably have questions and we will be working closely alongside the Rail Accident Investigation Branch and the Office of Rail and Road to establish the full circumstances of how the train came to derail.”

Early indications are that the heavy rain could have been the main factor in causing today’s crash in Aberdeenshire.

One rail industry source says the 06:38 service from Aberdeen to Glasgow was initially halted because of flooding on the line.

The driver apparently contacted control to ask permission to switch tracks.

It’s believed the train reversed and switched to clearer tracks and then continued on its route to Glasgow.

Then it is thought the train hit a landslide and derailed.

However, this initial, unconfirmed version of events should now be closely examined by the UK’s Rail Accident Investigation Branch.

Its job is to establish all the facts.

The train’s computer systems should show key indicators like the speed it was travelling at when it left the track.

In recent years incidents like this on the UK’s railways have become incredibly rare. The last major derailment was in 2007 in Cumbria.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressed her “deepest condolences” to the loved ones of those who lost their lives in the “tragic incident”.

“My thoughts remain with everyone affected,” she said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier said he was “saddened” and that his thoughts were with all those affected.

The train which derailed was made up of two locomotives – at the front and back – and four carriages.

British Transport Police said its officers had been called to the scene at about 09:43.

A few minutes later, Network Rail tweeted that there had been reports of a landslip at Carmont and that services between Dundee and Aberdeen had been halted.

The chief executive of Network Rail, Andrew Haines, is cutting short his family holiday in Italy to fly back to the UK.

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Emergency services at the scene of the derailment

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would visit the site on Thursday “to try to understand the situation first hand and offer every possible assistance”.

NHS Grampian confirmed it was on a “major incident footing”, and ScotRail said it was assisting the emergency services.

The RMT union’s Mick Lynch said: “The facts behind this ‎incident will need to be established in due course, but at this stage we are focussed on support and assistance and our thoughts are with all those impacted by this tragedy.”

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Media captionSeveral fire and ambulance crews were called to the scene near Stonehaven

Kevin Lindsay, Scotland organiser for the Aslef train drivers union, said: “Our thoughts tonight are with all those who died, and who were injured, in the tragic accident.

“While it is too early to speculate about the causes of the crash, it would seem that the appalling weather conditions in the area – the torrential rain – resulted in a landslip which, in turn, caused the train to derail.”

He added that the train had caught fire after rolling down a steep embankment.

Aberdeenshire Provost and Mearns councillor Bill Howatson said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody involved. This is a harrowing time for all concerned.”

A centre for family and friends affected by the incident has been opened by NHS Grampian at Midstocket Church in Aberdeen. Those affected can either visit the church or phone 01224 319519.

It’s long been recognised that landslips are one of the greatest risks to Britain’s railways and that a changing climate will make them more likely.

Heatwaves and droughts can dry out the steep embankments beside the tracks, and over the years will start to weaken them.

Add to that the effects of heavy rain, of the kind seen just now in Scotland, saturating and eroding the soil, and undermining its strength.

And with rising global temperatures set to bring extremes of weather never anticipated by the Victorian engineers who built the lines, Network Rail has been studying how best to keep the tracks safe.

But it admits that “we know we can’t rebuild every mile of railway”.

Are you in the area? Did you witness the incident? If it is safe to do so please share your experiences by emailing .

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist.

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