At least 23 passengers were killed and 64 others injured after an express train derailed in north India, officials said, as rescuers attempted to free people trapped in the wreckage.
The accident took place near Khatauli in the state of Uttar Pradesh, about 100km northeast of the national capital, New Delhi.
“Twenty-three people have died and 64 others are injured in the accident. Rescue and relief operations are continuing,” G S Priyadarshi, a civil official at the accident site, told AFP.
The injured were taken to a hospital, where doctors described their condition as stable.
Cranes lifted derailed coaches and gas cutters were used to reach people feared to be trapped, the IANS news agency reported.
Railway police and local volunteers were seen trying to help passengers out of the upturned coaches of the Kalinga-Utkal Express, which connects the Hindu holy city of Haridwar with the temple town of Puri, in the eastern state of Orissa.
The cause of the derailment was not immediately known, Sharma said.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu ordered an inquiry into the train derailment.
“Strict action will be taken against any lapse,” he tweeted. “I am personally monitoring the situation. Have instructed senior officers to reach the site immediately and ensure speedy rescue and relief operations.”
The minister has announced a compensation of $5,500 for the kin of deceased passengers.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter he was pained by the accident, offered condolences to families of those killed, and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.
Train accidents are common in India, where more than 22 million passengers use the rail system daily.
Saturday’s accident is at least the fourth major passenger train derailment this year and the third in Uttar Pradesh in 2017.
Over 250 people were killed across the country in train accidents in 2015 and 2016.
In November, a crash in Uttar Pradesh killed 150 people.
In June, Reuters reported that a planned $15bn safety overhaul of India’s rail network faced delays as the state steel company could not meet demand for new rails.
The network is in the middle of a $130bn, five-year modernisation.
The government launched the additional safety overhaul programme in February to tackle a surge in train accidents in the past two years blamed on defective tracks.