NEW DELHI — Two passenger trains derailed Friday in India, killing more than 200 people and trapping hundreds of others in more than a dozen damaged train cars, officials said.
The top bureaucrat in the eastern state of Odisha, Pradeep Jena, announced the death toll in a tweet.
Fire Service Chief Sudhanshu Sarangi told the Press Trust of India that more than 800 people were injured. He said the death toll was likely to rise.
The accident happened about 220 kilometers (137 miles) southwest of Kolkata, officials said. The cause is being investigated.
Ten to 12 coaches from one train derailed, and debris from some of the destroyed cars fell onto nearby tracks, said Amitabh Sharma, a spokesman for the railway ministry.
The wreckage was hit by another passenger train coming from the opposite direction, and up to three cars of the second train also derailed, Sharma said.
The Press Trust reported that a third train carrying goods was also involved, but there has been no immediate confirmation from the rail authorities. The Press Trust report said several derailed passenger cars hit cars from the freight train.
Afterwards, television images showed rescuers climbing over the rubble to break down doors and windows and using torches to free survivors.
Passenger Vandana Kaleda told New Delhi Television news channel that he “found people falling on each other” when the carriage shook violently and went off the rails. He said he was lucky to survive.
Another survivor who did not give his name said he was sleeping when the impact woke him. He said he saw other passengers with broken limbs and disfigured faces.
Dattatraya Bhausaheb Shinde, the top administrator in Balasore district, said at least 50 people were killed. The Press Trust reported the death toll was at least 70.
Nearly 500 police officers and rescue workers with 75 ambulances and buses came to the scene, said Pradeep Jena, Odisha state's top bureaucrat.
Rescuers are trying to free 200 people feared trapped in the rubble, Shinde said.
The Press Trust said the Coromandel Express that derailed was traveling from Howrah in West Bengal state to Chennai, capital of the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his thoughts were with the bereaved families.
“May the injured recover soon,” tweeted Modi, who said he had spoken to the minister of railways and that “all possible assistance” had been offered.
Despite the government's efforts to improve rail safety, several hundred accidents occur annually on India's railways, the world's largest rail network under a single management.
In August 1995, two trains collided near New Delhi, killing 358 people in the worst train accident in Indian history.
Most train accidents are caused by human error or out of date signaling equipment.
More than 12 million people take the 14,000 trains across India every day, covering a distance of 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles).