"A rock the size of an automobile came off the mountainside and slammed into the first car of the train," Jean Ballester, mayor of nearby Annot, told BFM television. "There are unfortunately two dead."
The uninjured among the approximately 30 passengers were evacuated to Annot, a little more than half-way through the train route, Ballester said. Two rescue helicopters were dispatched to the remote area, he said.
France's top security official, Manuel Vals, confirmed two dead and nine injured.
The train was still dangling dramatically from the tracks hours after the accident, the crushed front car nose-down in the snowy woods.
The train travels along the mountains on track that regularly receives snow and rock falls, but regional transport official Jean-Yves Petit said even in winter it is considered safe.
"The track isn't unusually dangerous," Petit told BFM.
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