Train derailment
© Pierce Co Sheriff / Twitter
Six people have died after an Amtrak train with over 70 people on board and 5 crew derailed on a bridge in Washington state, according to authorities. The train was making its first-ever run along a faster new route.

Seventy-eight passengers and five crew members were aboard the Cascade 501 train when it was moving at more than 80 mph derailed about 40 miles from Seattle before 8 am, Amtrak said, according to the Associated Press.

The death count is expected to rise, a US official told AP.

The Pierce County sheriff's office has released photos of the mangled train cars dangling off the overpass and blocking the highway.

The train was traveling from Tacoma to Olympia and derailed just west of DuPont, in Pierce County. An airlift helicopter is on its way to the scene, according to KIRO 7.

Seventy-seven people have been transported to area hospitals after the derailment.

Passenger Chris Karnes said those on the train were forced to kick out train windows to exit, as the emergency doors were not functioning correctly.

"We had just passed the city of DuPont and it seemed like we were going around a curve," Karnes said, as quoted by CBS News. "All of a sudden, we felt this rocking and creaking noise, and it felt like we were heading down a hill. The next thing we know, we're being slammed into the front of our seats, windows are breaking, we stop, and there's water gushing out of the train. People were screaming."

"The tracks for this line were supposed to be upgraded to be able to handle higher speeds," Karnes continued. "I'm not sure what happened at this juncture."

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has thanked the first responders at the scene, and called the incident an "ongoing and serious situation."

The derailment occurred during morning rush hour, and shut down the southbound lanes of Interstate 5, according to the Washington Department of Transportation. Drivers ha
amtrak crash washington
© NBC News
Amtrak train 501 derailed near Mounts Road in Pierce County, Washington.
ve been advised to avoid the area.

The derailed cars are blocking the south-bound lanes of I-5, causing a three-mile backup of vehicles on the interstate, according to local media. I-5 has been closed until further notice.

Amtrak train 501 was part of a service that launched Monday morning. Trains 504 and 509 have been canceled, Amtrak said.

According to multiple reports, the train was traveling at a speed of over 80 miles per hour when it derailed.

It will take "all day or a couple of days" to clear the area and finish the investigation, Trooper Brooke Bova of Washington State Patrol told reporters. The highway will likely remain shut for the remainder of Monday, she added.