A devastating crash involving three trains in the eastern Indian state of Odisha has killed nearly 300 people and left hundreds injured, many of them seriously. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who has been at the site of the accident, has said "a high-level committee" will be set up to investigate the accident.
Mr Vaishnaw's cabinet colleague Dharmendra Pradhan blamed "technical reasons" for the crash, describing it as "an unfortunate incident... it shouldn't have happened".
An official said the inquiry would be helmed by the commissioner of railway safety for the south-eastern circle - which includes Balasore district where the accident occurred.
Full details of how it happened are still not available, but the railway ministry said the crash took place around 18:55 (13:25 GMT) on Friday near the Bahanaga Bazar station, about 270km south of Kolkata and 170km north of Bhubaneswar, Odisha's capital.
The accident involved three trains:
• Coromandel Express which had started just hours before from Shalimar railway station in the state of West Bengal and was headed to the southern city of Chennai
• Howrah Superfast Express which had started from Yesvantpur station in Bengaluru was due to reach Howrah
• A stationary goods train which was standing at the Bahanaga Bazar station
The cause of the crash, which is being described as India's worst this century, is not yet clear.
There are varying accounts of which train derailed first and how the collision happened. But Railway spokesperson Amitabh Sharma said it was the Coromandel Express that derailed first.
"About 10 to 12 of its coaches derailed and ended up on the opposite track. A few minutes later, the Howrah Superfast Express hit the overturned carriages and three-four of its coaches also derailed," he added.
Mr Sharma did not mention the third train, but the Odisha government press release called it a "three-way accident" which involved a stationary goods train. It said 17 coaches of the two passenger trains were derailed and severely damaged.
Villagers from the nearby area and eyewitnesses to the crash also spoke of three trains being involved in the crash.
Girija Shankar Rath, who lives near the station and was among the first people to reach the accident site, told BBC Hindi that the Coromandel Express derailed and hit the goods train parked on a nearby track from behind.
"There was total chaos and the whole area was engulfed in smoke. And then we saw Shalimar Express which came hurtling down and hit some of the Coromandel wreckage and two of its coaches also derailed," he said.
Another eyewitness Tutu Biswas said he came to the accident spot when he heard a loud noise.
"Some of the coaches of the Coromandel express had gone over the goods train," Mr Biswas said. "There were lots of injured people and bodies here. I met a young boy who had lost both his parents. He was crying and then he died too," he added.
Friday's crash is among the five deadliest accidents in the history of Indian railways.
Atul Karwal, chief of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), said the force with which the trains collided had left several coaches crushed and mangled and they had to cut through the wreckage to reach the passengers.
Hundreds of ambulances, doctors, nurses and rescue personnel were sent to the scene and they worked for 18 hours to rescue trapped passengers and pull out bodies.
India has one of the largest train networks in the world - It runs more than 12,000 passenger trains daily and it is used by tens of millions of passengers to travel across the country daily, but a lot of the railway infrastructure needs improving.
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