Vatican City, Jul 12, 2016 / 12:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After a head-on train collision killed 20 people in the southern Italian region of Puglia, Pope Francis voiced his grief over the incident and offered prayers for the victims and their families.

“His Holiness Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt and genuine participation in the sorrow striking so many families,” Vatican secretary of state Archbishop Pietro Parolin wrote on the Pope's behalf. “He assures his fervent prayers of repose for those who tragically died and, while invoking the Lord for a swift recovery for the injured, entrusts to the maternal protection of the Virgin Mary the many who are affected by dramatic grief, and sends the comfort of his Apostolic Blessing.”

Dozens were injured — some critically — and at least 20 people killed when two trains crashed while apparently traveling towards each other on the same track. The collision happened around 11:30 a.m. local time on Tuesday while the trains were moving through an olive grove between the towns of Corato and Ruvo di Puglia, the New York Times reported.

Rescue teams worked throughout the day in sweltering heat to pull survivors from the wreckage. One passenger extracted from the mangled cars was a small child, who was airlifted to a hospital, the BBC reported. Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was in Milan during the accident, telling local media that he would be returning to Rome as soon as possible and that he had ordered an investigation.

“We won't stop until we clarify what happened,” he told Milan reporters, according to the New York Times. “There is an absolute need to understand who is responsible and to shed total light” on the incident.