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"It was a terrifying scene which I'll never be able to forget," a witness was quoted as saying by Italy's Ansa news agency.
Police say the incident may have been caused by damage to the tracks or a problem with the train's braking system.
The train's two engineers, who were only slightly injured, said they felt an impact about 200m (650ft) outside the station, shortly before the rear of the train derailed, officials say.