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10 July 2011

Dozens dead as train derails in India

Mangled passenger carriages are seen at the site of the train accident in Fatehpur. (AFP)

A packed passenger train has derailed in northern India, killing at least 35 people and leaving up to 100 injured after carriages were thrown off the tracks, officials said.

The 15 derailed carriages were left stacked on top of each other, television pictures showed, as rescue teams worked to free people trapped inside the train in Uttar Pradesh state, 150 kilometres south of Lucknow city.

"At least 35 people are dead and 100 injured are being treated at the scene and in hospital," said KN Joshi, the local district chief medical officer.

"Many are still in the mangled coaches," said Pradeep Ojha, a senior Uttar Pradesh railway officer

The Press Trust of India said local people rushed to the scene to help pull victims from the wreckage.

"We were sitting in our seats when suddenly everything turned upside down," said a male passenger interviewed by the CNN-IBN news channel.

"When the train stopped we broke the glass windows to jump out on the track."

The train was travelling from Howrah, near the eastern city of Kolkata, across India to the capital New Delhi when it left the tracks. The cause of the accident was unclear.

Prime minister Manmohan Singh "expressed deep sorrow and shock at the loss of lives" and promised all available resources in the area would be deployed for rescue and relief operations, his office said in a statement.

On Thursday, 38 people were killed in Uttar Pradesh when a train slammed into a bus carrying a marriage party.

India's state-run railway system - still the main form of long-distance travel despite fierce competition from new private airlines - carries 18.5 million people daily.

The worst accident in India was in 1981 when a train plunged into a river in the eastern state of Bihar, killing an estimated 800 people.

The railway is the country's largest employer with 1.4 million people on its payroll and it runs 11,000 trains a day.

Experts say the creaking system, the world's second largest under a single management, is desperately in need of new investment to help end transportation bottlenecks that threaten the country's fast economic growth.