24 people have died after two passenger trains in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh derailed minutes apart on a flooded bridge, officials say.
The trains were passing near the town Harda when a flash flood struck the bridge and the tracks collapsed and some carriages were submerged.
It has been reported that 25 people were injured and 300 rescued from the derailed trains.
The bridge crosses the Machak river approximately 590miles from Delhi, India’s capital.
The two trains in question were the Kamayani Express travelling from Varanasi to Mumbai and the Janata Express travelling in the opposite direction.
A passenger reported to a local TV station that there was a “sudden jerk” and “the carriage broke apart and people were crushed.”
A railway spokesperson, Anil Saksena, told BBC hat “This unfortunate accident took place because of flash floods on the tracks, and the track caved in and resulted in the derailment of the last six coaches of the Kamayani Express.
“The train derailed, then simultaneously on the neighbouring line from the opposite direction, another train was coming. That train also encountered a flash flood situation. So it almost happened simultaneously on neighbouring tracks.”
Rescuers worked during the night trying to free those victims trapped, whilst divers used gas-powered cutters to access the submerged carriages.
By Wednesday, all the coaches had been cleared and bodies of the victims recovered. However, Madhya Pradesh railway police chief MS Gupta told AFP news agency that the death toll could rise slightly as it was unclear if any passengers were unaccounted for.
India has been victim to heavy monsoon rains and the tail-end of Cyclone Komen in recent days. ore than 100 people had died in flooding, landslides and even building collapses.
Prime Minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted that he had ordered an inquiry to be made into the incident and he would make a full statement to the Indian parliament on Wednesday.
He also expressed his concnern and condolences to the relatives of those involved.
The standards of safety on India’s massive state-run railway network has been under scrutiny after numerous accidents.
The network accounts for almost 23 million passengers every day and operates 12,000 passenger trains.
Correspondents have said that decades of neglect, low investment and subsidised fares have left the network in a shambles, despite being the world’s fourth largest railway.