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LUCKNOW, India – A train overshot a stop signal and plowed into another express passenger train in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state, killing 12 people and injuring dozens, officials said Wednesday.
Three coaches of the Barauni Express derailed and toppled over after the Krishak Express crashed into it near Gorakhpur city station late Tuesday, said Madhuresh Kumar, an Indian railways general manager.
The bodies of 12 passengers were pulled out of the Barauni's mangled coaches, he said, adding that 44 people from that train were hospitalized with injuries. The driver of the Krishak Express also was injured, but it was unclear whether anyone else aboard his train was hurt.
Railway services across northern India were disrupted, and several trains were diverted to alternative routes, officials said.
Passengers who were on the Barauni said the train was packed with construction workers who were returning home for the Hindu festival of Dusshera, which is Friday.
"There were more than 100 people in my coach and many of them were getting ready to get off at the Gorakhpur station, when there was this huge bang," one of the passengers, Ramesh Chaudhry, said by phone from Gorakhpur.
"I was standing near the door when the engine of the Krishak Express hit the rear of my coach and it fell off the track. I fell onto a pile of luggage and was saved," Chaudhry said. "But the person standing next to me did not survive."
He said local villagers helped pull many people from the train, adding that police did not immediately arrive at the scene.
Gorakhpur is about 340 kilometers (210 miles) east of the state capital, Lucknow.
The driver of the Krishak Express and his assistant were suspended after it was determined that their train had overshot a stop signal before the crash, said Alok Kumar, a railway spokesman.
Experts will investigate whether the train overshot the signal due to mechanical failure or human error, the spokesman said.
Accidents are common on India's railroad network, one of the world's largest, with 23 million people riding daily on about 11,000 passenger trains. Most accidents are blamed on poor maintenance and human error.