Fourteen people have been killed and 50 injured after a freight train carrying liquefied natural gas derailed and exploded in northern Italy.  The freight cars jumped the tracks and crashed into several homes, setting off an inferno in Tuscan seaside town of Viareggio.  

It was just before midnight when a train carrying liquefied gas derailed and crashed into houses where people were asleep in their beds. Five buildings collapsed under the force of the blast.

Witnesses said they saw a blazing inferno.  Some said they initially thought it was a bomb.  They spoke of a white cloud and then the explosion.  There was smoke and flames.  People were screaming.

Italy's civil protection chief, Guido Bertolaso said it was one of the worst transportation tragedies to strike the country.

Hundreds of firefighters were rushed to the area.  The fires that broke out are under control, but a smell of burning hangs in the air.  Teams specialized in hazardous material are at the scene and working on preventing other gas tanker cars from exploding.  There are 13 tank cars in total

Bertolaso says that four of the tanks are overturned and nine are still on the railway line.  He says the four that are overturned are the most dangerous.

Around 1,000 people have been evacuated from their homes as a precaution.  The mayor of Viareggio said tents were set up and hotel rooms were made available for these people.  Roads around the area of the disaster have been closed for safety reasons.

Firefighters are searching the rubble for more bodies.

Bertolaso said the bodies recovered have not all been identified because, unfortunately, many were so badly burned the work of identification will be quite complicated.  He added it may not be until later in the day before they know exactly how many people died.