21 killed in train crash near Taj Mahal

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The Independent Online

Officials have confirmed that 21 people were killed today when a passenger train smashed into the rear carriage of another train.

Police say the rear carriage of the second train was reserved for women and disabled passengers, and that 21 people had died, with another 17 trapped for hours at the site near the Taj Mahal in northern India.

Rescuers used gas cutters to open the wrecked compartment to free trapped passengers following the collision near Agra, the site of the famed white-marble monument about 130 miles (210 kilometres) south-east of New Delhi, said Rajesh Bajpai, a railway spokesman.

They recovered 19 bodies during the rescue operation that lasted nearly seven hours, said Rajesh Dikshit, a police spokesman. Two of the 19 injured people died in hospital, Mr Dikshit told The Associated Press.

The smashed coach was reserved for women and physically handicapped people, although some additional people may have been among the victims, district Magistrate Suresh Chandra Sharma said.

The two trains were heading to New Delhi from southern India. One of the trains, the Mewar Express, was stopped at a red signal when the other train rammed into it from behind according to district magistrate Suresh Chandra Sharma.

Ramesh Charan, a passenger aboard the Mewar Express said: "We felt a massive jolt. Some people sleeping on upper berths fell to the coach floor by the impact of the collision."

Villagers and soldiers stationed nearby helped police and rail officials in rescuing injured people.

Authorities have now launched an investigation into the cause.