Two passenger trains collided Monday in an accident that killed three people and injured 60 as train cars were derailed and nearby houses knocked over, Chinese state media and an official said.

The pre-dawn crash occurred in Hunan province when a train going from the provincial capital Changsha to the southern city of Shenzhen collided with another Shenzhen-bound train, state television said.

The China Central Television newscast showed a tangle of red, white and blue train cars on their sides at the station at Chenzhou, where the collision occurred at 2:34 a.m. (1834 GMT Sunday).

"One train compartment has been crushed out of shape. Debris and the belongings of the passengers are scattered everywhere," a CCTV reporter said as the camera showed seats ripped from the floor and the ground littered with plastic bottles and scraps of paper.

Rescue workers wearing hard hats rushed around the scene, shouting instructions as police and medics crammed into collapsed train compartments. A group of men were shown carrying a body covered in a pink quilt on a stretcher. The report said two people were killed on the trains while one died when their home was damaged.

Workers were busy cleaning up the area of rubble from the ruined walls of two nearby houses and repairing power lines, CCTV said.

An official at the railway ministry said the cause was under investigation. He refused to give his name, a common practice among Chinese authorities.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the railway minister had traveled to Chenzhou to oversee rescue operations.

Telephone calls to the Chenzhou station, the city's government offices and main hospital all rang unanswered.

Last year, 72 people were killed and hundreds were injured when a high-speed passenger train jumped its tracks and slammed into another in eastern Shandong province.

The accident was the worst train crash in China since 1997, when 126 were killed in Hunan, the China Daily newspaper reported last year, citing Xinhua.