The death toll from the collision of two passenger trains in the eastern Indian state of Odisha has risen to 288 with 803 others reportedly injured on Saturday, officials said.
The Times of India quoted railway officials as saying that there are 288 victims recorded in the horrific collision, the country's deadliest rail accident in more than 20 years. Injured passengers have been taken to hospitals in Gopalpur, Khantapara, Balasore, Bhadrak and Soro.
The accident took place on Friday evening near Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore district, about 171 km northeast of Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha state.
According to officials, the Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai, hit the derailed bogies of a few coaches of Yashwantpur-Howrah Express which crashed and fell on the opposite track. A freight train was also said to be involved in the accident.
The collision has disrupted train movements on the affected routes. Media reports said 48 trains have been so far cancelled, 39 diverted and 10 short-terminated due to the accident.
Officials said the impact of the collision was so severe that compartments of the two passenger trains climbed atop each other causing deaths and injuries. A large number of passengers were also trapped inside the mangled coaches.
Witnesses said one train rammed into another lifting its carriages high into the air, then twisting and finally falling off the tracks.
"Everything was shaking and we could feel the coach toppling," Sanjay Mukhia, a daily wage worker travelling to Chennai on the Coromandel Express, told a news channel. Mukhia was injured in the accident.
Another survivor said severed limbs of humans were seen amid the trains' wreckage.
Rescue teams, health workers, police, and fire service and disaster response force personnel rushed to the spot to carry out rescue operations immediately after the accident.
The Indian Air Force has sent Mi-17 helicopters to aid the rescue efforts, which continued until late Saturday afternoon and all the injured passengers were shifted to hospitals.
A video from the spot showed rescuers carrying bodies covered with white bed sheets on stretchers and placing them along the tracks.
Officials said the rescue work at the site has ended and clean-up work has begun, with cranes having come to move the train carriages and clear the rail tracks.
"The rescue operation has been completed and now the restoration work on the route is underway," South Eastern Railway's spokesperson Amitabh Sharma told the media.
Nine teams of India's National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have reached the crash site to carry out the rescue and restoration works.
The personnel worked throughout the night to pull survivors from the derailed coaches using gas cutters and other tools to cut through the compartments.
More than 200 ambulances were sent to the spot in Balasore to transport the injured to hospitals. Local bus companies also joined the transportation service for the injured.
State authorities in Odisha have also recruited additional teams of doctors and health workers to aid the hospitals treating the injured.
According to Dr Jayant Panda from the SCB Medical College based in Cuttack, hundreds of people have donated blood for the injured.
"More than 3,000 units of blood were collected since last night in Cuttack, Balasore and Bhadrak," Panda told the media.
The Friday accident is one of the worst train crashes in India and the death toll is likely to rise further, considering the fact that some of the injured passengers are in critical condition.
Media reports said over 3,500 people were travelling in the two ill-fated passenger trains.
The cause of the accident was not immediately known, and a probe has been ordered into the derailment.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a meeting in New Delhi on the train crash Saturday morning. Later on, he travelled to Balasore and visited a hospital to meet the injured.
Modi said those responsible for the accident "will be severely punished".
"It's a serious incident for the government. Instructions have been issued to probe the incident from every angle. Those found guilty will be severely punished," he said.
Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw also visited Balasore on Saturday morning. "A high-level committee has already been declared that will inquire into the accident," he said.
India's deadliest railway accident took place in the Bihar state in 1981, killing at least 800 people when an overcrowded passenger train was blown off the track during a cyclone and plummeted into a river.