At least 25 people, including four children, were killed in Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district early Tuesday when the Bangalore-bound Hampi Express collided with a stationary goods train, police said.
Over 70 injured people were shifted to various hospitals, as the rescue work continued at the accident site near Penukonda railway station, about 400 km from here.
As many as 16 bodies, most of them charred beyond recognition, were found in first coach, which caught fire due to electrical short-circuiting after the collision. Seven bodies were recovered from other damaged coaches, while two persons died from their injuries in a local hospital, police said.
The train driver and his co-driver were among those killed in the accident that took place around 3.15 am. The toll may go up as some of the injured are stated to be in a very critical condition. Some passengers were still trapped inside the damaged bogies, and the rescue workers were using gas cutters to extricate them.
The train, which left Hubli at 6 pm. Monday, was to reach Bangalore at 6 am. It originates in Karnataka and passes through parts of Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh before re-entering Karnataka.
A signalling error appears to have led to the crash, a railway official said.
Such was the impact of the collision that the first coach behind the engine caught fire, while three other coaches behind it were derailed. The women's and general compartments bore the brunt.
The official said the casualties were higher as passengers were asleep when the collision happened. All the victims are believed to be from Karnataka.
Local police, fire-fighting and railway personnel rushed to the spot and began rescue and relief operations.
Anantapur district collector Durga Das and other senior officials are supervising the rescue and relief operations. The collector said the injured were shifted to nearby hospitals.
Union Railway Minister Mukul Roy has ordered an inquiry into the accident.
The railway minister also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of the dead, Rs 1 lakh to the grievously injured and Rs 50,000 to other injured people.
Andhra Pradesh's Minister for Revenue Raghuveera Reddy, who visited the spot, told reporters that the 70 injured were shifted to hospitals in Penukonda, Hindupur and Puttaparthi.
Another state minister Sailajanath and member of parliament K Chiranjeevi also visited the accident site.
Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy directed the officials to provide all help to the injured and other passengers stranded at the station.