Three people died when a passenger train derailed in northeast Scotland on Wednesday, police said, following heavy rains and severe flooding across parts of the region overnight.

The crash occurred in the morning close to the town of Stonehaven, around 25 kilometres (15 miles) south of Aberdeen. Smoke could be seen rising from the scene in pictures broadcast on television news channels.

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One casualty was reportedly airlifted to hospital Photo: AFP / Michal Wachucik

"Very sadly despite the best efforts of paramedics, we can confirm that three people have been pronounced dead at the scene," British Transport Police said in a statement.

, although none of their injuries are thought to be serious.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union also told the domestic Press Association agency that the train conductor was another victim.

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With smoke rising, derailed carriages lie at the scene of a train crash near Stonehaven in northeast Scotland. Police say three people died. Photo: AFP / Michal Wachucik

Union TSSA said the train was the 06:38 (05:38 GMT) service travelling from Aberdeen to Glasgow.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon initially told the Scottish Parliament that there were "early reports of serious injuries" after noting on Twitter the crash was "an extremely serious incident."

Sturgeon said it occurred in an area where it was difficult for emergency services to access.

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Emergency services personnel work at the scene of a train crash near Stonehaven in northeast Scotland. Photo: AFP / Michal Wachucik

Some 30 emergency vehicles were attending the scene of the derailment which happened at 9:40am (08:40 GMT).

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Emergency services vehicles gather near the scene of a train derailment in Scotland Photo: AFPTV / Stuart GRAHAM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "I am saddened to learn of the very serious incident in Aberdeenshire and my thoughts are with all of those affected. My thanks to the emergency services at the scene."

Thunderstorms and torrential rain battered parts of central and eastern Scotland overnight, creating hazardous travelling conditions.

Photos posted on social media by local authorities showed heavy flooding in the nearby town of Stonehaven early Wednesday.

Network Rail Scotland, the company which looks after the rail infrastructure, said it was working alongside emergency services.

"It is too early to confirm the exact nature and severity of the incident and more details will be made available once known," it said.

Moments after the emergency services had been notified of the accident, Network Rail reported there had been a landslip close by.

The local arm of Britain's National Health Service said it was setting up "major incident support" in Aberdeen for relatives and friends of anyone involved in the incident.

The BBC reported that one casualty was airlifted by helicopter to a nearby hospital.

Local MP Andrew Bowie said a "major emergency service response" was underway and he had spoken to the British transport minister, Grant Shapps, about the incident.

Britain's last major rail derailment was in 2007 in Cumbria, in northwest England, when a train on the main west coast line left the tracks, killing one passenger and seriously injuring 30 others.

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