Indian train crash: Dozens dead after two derailments within minutes of each other in heavy floods

The two trains, travelling in opposite directions, derailed on a bridge in central India

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The Independent Online

At least 31 people are dead after two Indian passenger trains derailed within minutes of each other on flooded tracks on a bridge in central India.

The Kamayani Express was en route to Mumbai when it derailed around midnight on Tuesday night near the town of Harda in Madhya Pradesh state.

The second train, the Janata Express, was travelling in the opposite direction and derailed soon after.

Officials have reportedly said that 300 people have been rescued.

The trains were crossing a small bridge near the Machak River, about 950km south of New Delhi.

AN76829122Indian officials .jpgAn earlier train had passed on the tracks without incident but a flash flood caused part of the track to sink into the ground forcing the trains to derail, according to a senior railway officer.

Six coaches from the Kamayani Express and the engine and four coaches from the Janata Express were derailed. At least two coaches are believed to be partially submerged in mud.

Rescue workers got to the scene quickly but were delayed by the darkness and are still searching for survivors.

Rescue workers and railway official at the crash site in Madhya Pradesh

According to India Today, several children are believed to be among the dead.

One railway official, Anil Saksena, said: "We are getting reports that there were flash floods and the tracks caved in. Most of the coaches had passed but the last few carriages were derailed."

Passengers on one of the trains told local media that water was visibly overflowing on the tracks before the train attempted a crossing.

Officials and members of the rescue operation stand in a carriage of a derailed train near Harda, Madhya Pradesh

One passenger Shashi Bhushan Pandit told the Hindustan Times: "The water level on the track was almost waist-high. The current was swift...I cannot say how many people are trapped."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences to the victims and said local authorities were doing everything they could to help people on the ground:

India has been hit by severe flooding in recent weeks due to heavy monsoon rains with 100 people killed in the past week.

The country has one of the largest and busiest railway systems in the world but much of it is poorly maintained and the Hindustan Times reports that there were nearly 28,000 deaths in accidents during 2014.

Additional reporting by AP