Rescuers are racing against time to pull out survivors from the wreckage of a train collision in eastern India, as the death toll rose to more than 230 people.
About 900 people were injured in the accident in Balasore district in the eastern state of Odisha, said Pradeep Jena, the state’s top administrative official. The cause was under investigation.
Hundreds of others were trapped inside more than a dozen mangled rail cars overnight in one of the country’s deadliest train crashes in two decades.
The accident, which happened about 220 kilometres (137 miles) southwest of Kolkata on Friday night, led to chaotic scenes as rescuers climbed atop the wrecked trains to break open doors and windows using cutting torches to free survivors.
Sudhanshu Sarangi, director of Odisha’s fire department, said it was possible that people were stuck underneath but that it was unlikely they would still be alive.
“By 10pm (on Friday) we were able to rescue the survivors. After that it was about picking up dead bodies,” he said. “This is very, very tragic. I have never seen anything like this in my career.”
Ten to 12 coaches of one train derailed, and debris from some of the mangled coaches fell onto a nearby track, said Amitabh Sharma, a railroad ministry spokesperson.
The debris was hit by another passenger train coming from the opposite direction, causing up to three coaches of the second train to also derail, he added.
A third train carrying freight was also involved, the Press Trust of India reported, but there was no immediate confirmation of that from railroad authorities. PTI said some of the derailed passenger coaches hit cars from the freight train.
Dozens of bodies, covered by white sheets, lay on the ground near the train tracks as locals and rescuers raced to help survivors.
Teams of rescuers and police continued sifting through the ruins on Saturday morning as the search operation continued, amid fears that the death toll is likely to rise further.
Scores of people also showed up at a local hospital to donate blood.
Officials said 1,200 rescuers worked with 115 ambulances, 50 buses and 45 mobile health units through the night at the accident site.
Saturday was declared a day of mourning in Odisha as the state’s chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, visited the district to meet injured passengers.