Bhopal, Aug 5 (IANS): At least 27 people were killed when two trains derailed in quick succession and some coaches fell into a river in Madhya Pradesh's Harda district, authorities said on Wednesday.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said 27 people were killed when 21 coaches of the trains derailed shortly before midnight Tuesday on the Kali Machak river.
One of the trains was the Varanasi-bound Kamayani Express, which met with the accident at about 11.20 pm. Less than 15 minutes later, the Mumbai-bound Janata Express on the other track also met the same fate -- at that very spot.
Desperate passengers screamed in pain and terror as they tried to claw their way out of the mangled coaches. A few did come out, bruised and bleeding, but some couldn't.
The shaken survivors said they were jolted out of their sleep when their coach fell into the river with a thunder.
A Kamayani Express passenger said the first few coaches of the train crossed the river but those after the fourth coach plunged into the water.
"Many of us had to swim out of the coach," said the visibly rattled passenger.
The tracks were badly twisted in the wake of the disaster. The coaches landed in awkward angles, making the search operation difficult for divers looking for bodies in the river.
The cause of the accident was not clear. Some said the bridge over the river may have caved in.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the deaths "deeply distressing", and said he was "deeply pained over the loss of lives. Condolences to families of deceased.
"My prayers with the injured. Authorities are doing everything possible on the ground. The situation is being monitored very closely."
Authorities admitted that the death toll was likely to rise.
IB Siddiqui, a spokesperson for the West Central Railway, initially told IANS that six coaches of the Kamayani and Janata Express derailed from their tracks and fell into the river. The number was later revised to 21.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu ordered an inquiry into the twin derailment and announced compensation to the families of the victims.
"Flooding of tracks due to very heavy downpour (may have caused the accident). Will make detailed statement (in) Parliament," Prabhu tweeted.
He said villagers were assisting in the rescue efforts. He said "everything that's necessary and possible (was) being done" and he was in constant touch with Madhya Pradesh authorities.