The death toll from a multiple train collision in eastern India's Odisha state has risen to at least 288 people, with more than 900 others injured and many more feared trapped in the wreckage, a top official said.
Sudhanshu Sarangi, director general of the state fire department, confirmed the new number to the AFP news agency on Saturday. Hundreds of people were also injured in the accident late on Friday.
The death toll is expected to rise, the state's Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said on Twitter.
He added that over 200 ambulances had been called to the scene of the accident in Odisha's Balasore district and 100 additional doctors, on top of 80 already there, had been mobilised.
"The rescue work is still going at the site and it will take us a few more hours to finish here," Sarangi said. "A very sad incident and the prognosis is not good."
Jena earlier confirmed that "about 850 injured people have been sent to hospitals", with rescue work ongoing. That injury toll has reached beyond 900, local media said.
The collision occurred at about 19:00 local time [1330 GMT] on Friday when the Howrah Superfast Express, running from Bangalore to Howrah, West Bengal, collided with the Coromandel Express, which runs from Kolkata to Chennai. A freight train was also involved in the crash, officials said.
Images broadcast on local stations showed smashed train compartments torn open with blood-stained holes of twisted metal, and scores of passengers lying beside the tracks near Balasore, about 200 kilometres from the state capital Bhubaneswar.
Amitabh Sharma, executive director with the Indian Railways, told AFP that the two passenger trains "had an active involvement in the accident" while "the third train, a goods train, which was parked at the site, also got [involved] in the accident".
One survivor told local TV news reporters that he had sleeping when the accident happened, and woke to find himself trapped under around a dozen fellow passengers, before somehow crawling out from the carriage with only injuries to his neck and arm.
Another TV station showed graphic images of a train car toppled to one side of the track, as local residents tried to pull victims to safety.
'A heavy accident'
An extensive search-and-rescue operation is under way, involving hundreds of fire department personnel and police officers as well as sniffer dogs. National Disaster Response Force teams were also at the site.
SK Panda, a spokesperson in Jena's office in Odisha state, called it "a heavy accident".
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was "distressed by the train accident".
Odisha's Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared a day of state mourning on June 3 as a mark of respect to the victims.
Despite government efforts to improve rail safety, several hundred accidents occur every year on India's railways, the largest train network under one management in the world.
In August 1995, two trains collided near New Delhi, killing 358 people in the worst train accident in India’s history.
Most train accidents are blamed on human error or outdated signaling equipment.
More than 12 million people ride 14,000 trains across India every day, traveling on 64,000 kilometres of track.