Rescuers found no more survivors in the wreckage of two passenger trains that derailed in eastern India, killing more than 280 people and injuring hundreds more in one of the country’s deadliest rail crashes in decades.
There were chaotic scenes after the derailment on Friday night about 137 miles south-west of Kolkata, as rescuers climbed on top of the wrecked trains to break open doors and windows using cutting torches.
The death toll rose steadily throughout the night.
Scores of bodies, covered by white sheets, lay on the ground near the tracks as locals and rescuers raced to help survivors.
Army soldiers and air force helicopters joined the effort.
Sudhanshu Sarangi, director of Odisha state’s fire and emergency department, told The Associated Press: “By 10pm (on Friday, 5.30pm BST) we were able to rescue the survivors. After that it was about picking up dead bodies.
“This is very, very tragic. I have never seen anything like this in my career.”
At least 280 bodies were recovered overnight and into Saturday morning, he said. About 900 people were injured and the cause was under investigation.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with officials and took stock of the tragedy before flying to Odisha for a first-hand look at the crash and to visit people being treated in hospitals.
Amitabh Sharma, a rail ministry spokesperson, said the rescue work was near completion.
Rail authorities will start removing the wreckage to repair the track and resume train operations, he said.
About 200 of the severely injured people were transferred to specialty hospitals in other cities in Odisha, said PK Jena, the state’s top administrative official.
Another 200 were discharged after receiving medical care and the rest were being treated in local hospitals, he added. Scores of people also showed up to donate blood.
“The challenge now is identifying the bodies. Wherever the relatives are able to provide evidence, the bodies are handed over after autopsies. If not identified, maybe we have to go for a DNA test and other protocols,” he said.
Ten to 12 coaches of one train derailed, and debris from some of the mangled coaches fell onto a nearby track, according to Mr Sharma.
The debris was hit by another passenger train coming from the opposite direction, causing up to three coaches of the second train to also derail, he added.
A third train carrying freight was also involved, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported, but there was no immediate confirmation of that from rail authorities.
PTI said some of the derailed passenger coaches hit cars from the freight train.
The rescue operation was slowed because two train cars were pressed together by the impact of the accident, Mr Jena said.
Officials said 1,200 rescuers worked with 115 ambulances, 50 buses and 45 mobile health units through the night. Saturday was declared as a day of mourning in Odisha.
In August 1995, two trains collided near New Delhi, killing 358 people in one of the worst train accidents in India.
In 2016, a passenger train slid off the tracks between the cities of Indore and Patna, killing 146 people.
Most train accidents are blamed on human error or outdated signalling equipment.