Picture: Reuters

Rome - Three people died and about 110 were hurt, including 10 with life-threatening injuries, in a commuter train crash near Milan, a regional government spokeswoman said Thursday.

The six-carriage Trenord train left Cremona, a city about 90 kilometres south-east of Milan, at about 5:30 am (0430 GMT) and derailed at around 7 am near the suburban municipality of Pioltello.

"It was commuter hour, the train was full," Chiara Ambrosio, the deputy police chief of Milan, told broadcaster SkyTG24.

It took about three hours to extract survivors and victims from the mangled carriages, according to the ANSA news agency. On TV footage, helicopters could be seen taking the injured to nearby hospitals.

Footage also showed that only the central carriages derailed, suggesting that the accident may have been caused by a malfunctioning railway switch.

"Everything was going well, suddenly the train started shaking, then we heard a bang and the carriages derailed," a survivor, who did not give his name, told ANSA.

Prosecutors rushed to the scene alongside firemen and police, questioned the train driver and opened an investigation into the accident.

Rail traffic on the eastbound line out of Milan was suspended following the accident, Italian rail-track company Rete Ferroviaria Italiana said.

The last deadly railway accident in Italy took place in July 2016, when 23 people were killed in a double train collision between Corato and Andria, near the south-eastern city of Bari.