NEW DELHI, May 26- A passenger express slammed into a stationary freight train in northern India on Monday, killing at least 10 people with others feared trapped in the wreckage, an official told AFP.
The express was travelling to Gorakhpur city in northern Uttar Pradesh state when it collided with the stationary train at a local station, leaving scores of passengers injured, Indian Railways officials said.
Six carriages were derailed in the accident and emergency rescue and medical teams were racing to free those still thought trapped inside and ferry the injured to hospital, they said.
“We are trying to ascertain the exact number of casualties. What we know now is that six bogies of the train derailed following the collision and at least 10 people have died,” the official said in New Delhi, requesting anonymity.
The number of passengers reported killed varied, with local media saying 20 were feared dead, while district magistrate Bharat Lal Rai put the figure at five, but warned the toll could rise.
The Gorakhdham Express travelling from Hisar city to Gorakhpur smashed into the freight train at Chureb station in Khalilabad, 700 kilometres (430 miles) east of New Delhi.
“We are focusing on rescue and relief at the moment. It’s going on in a war footing to ensure minimum casualties,” Indian Railways spokesman Anil Kumar Saxena told AFP.
Television footage showed at least one carriage on top of another mangled one, with windows shattered and locals gathering nearby.
Narendra Modi, who is set to be sworn in as India’s new prime minister later Monday, expressed his sadness at the loss of life.
“My condolences to families of those who lost their lives in the Gorakhdham express tragedy. Prayers with the injured,” Modi said on his official Twitter account.
“Spoke to the Cabinet Secretary. Asked him to take an overview of the situation & ensure timely assistance to those injured,” he said.
India’s railway network, one of the world’s largest, is still the main form of long-distance travel in the vast country. But the network is poorly funded and deadly accidents are frequent.
In January, fire tore through a train full of sleeping passengers outside Mumbai, killing nine people and forcing survivors to break open doors to escape. Weeks earlier, a fire on board a train in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh killed 26 people.
Last August, a high-speed train ploughed into a crowd of Hindu pilgrims as they tried to cross tracks in eastern Bihar state, killing 37.
In 2012, a government report said almost 15,000 people were killed every year on India’s railways, describing the deaths as an annual “massacre” due mainly to poor safety standards.