VELIGONDA, India – A passenger train plunged into a rain-swollen river in southern India early Saturday, killing at least 100 people and trapping dozens more inside the derailed cars, officials said.
About 100 injured passengers were rescued from the coaches, which derailed after floods washed away the tracks in the town of Veligonda in Andhra Pradesh (search) state.
Dozens more people remained trapped inside the train cars as soldiers and local villagers used gas torches to cut open the cars, at least five of which were lying on their side, partially submerged in water. One of the coaches was resting on top of another.
"We have recovered 100 bodies so far. And some bodies may have been washed away" by the fast moving flood waters of the river, said Thomas Verghese (search), general manager of India's southern railway.
Army divers and local volunteers swam out to the wreckage to help pull out the injured. Other soldiers, lowered onto the roof of the coaches by helicopter to help in the rescue effort as people inside were hanging on to luggage racks and ceiling fans.
"We were fast asleep, when there was a big bang and a thud. The next thing the train was under water," said P. Ramesh, a passenger who said he lost seven members of his family, including his wife and brother.
"It was pitch dark and people were screaming," Ramesh said. "I was able to clamber out of the coach, but others were not so lucky. They are still inside."
The train — an engine and 17 coaches — hit a portion of track washed away by flash floods and seven of the cars derailed, officials said.
Rains have battered southern India for more than a week, claiming at least 90 lives in Andhra Pradesh and the neighboring states of Tamil Nadu (search) and Karnataka. Most died due to drowning, electrocution and injuries caused by housing collapses.
The injured were flown by helicopters to hospitals in Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh, local police Inspector General Govind Singh said.
The heavy rains also washed away many roads in the area, making it difficult for rescuers and ambulances to reach the accident site. Traffic jams stretched for miles on roads leading to Veligonda, which is about 50 miles east of Hyderabad.
Three days of heavy downpours caused at least three water reservoirs to breach their banks, triggering the flash floods, said R. Velu, a federal junior minister for railways who visited the accident site.
Railway workers attached an engine to the rear of the train and pulled the 10 remaining cars to a safer section of the track, said Esther Kar, a railway ministry spokeswoman in New Delhi (search).