At least 261 people have been killed and 1,000 are injured in a crash involving three trains in India’s eastern Odisha state.

One passenger train derailed on to the adjacent track and were struck by an incoming train on Friday, also hitting a nearby stationary freight train.

A massive recovery operation is under way, after hundreds of emergency workers searched the wreckage.

It is India’s worst train crash this century and the cause is not yet clear.

Officials say several carriages from the Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express derailed at about 19:00 (13:30 GMT) in Balasore district, hit a stationary goods train and several of its coaches ended up on the opposite track.

Another train – the Howrah Superfast Express travelling from Yesvantpur to Howrah – then hit the overturned carriages.

“The force with which the trains collided has resulted in several coaches being crushed and mangled,” Atul Karwal, chief of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) told ANI news agency.

It was the third-deadliest crash in the history of Indian railways, he said.

More than 200 ambulances and hundreds of doctors, nurses and rescue personnel were sent to the scene, the state’s chief secretary Pradeep Jena said.

Sudhanshu Sarangi, director general of Odisha Fire Services, had earlier said 288 had died.

All trapped and injured passengers have been rescued. It is not clear how serious the injuries of those taken to hospitals were.

Work to restore the site of the crash begun, India’s South Eastern Railway company said on Saturday.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw is at the site of the accident and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit the injured later on Saturday.

Survivors and eyewitnesses have described chaotic scenes and the heroic efforts of people from nearby villages to save trapped passengers.

Mukesh Pandit, who was trapped for half an hour before being rescued, told the BBC he heard a “thunderous sound” shortly before the carriage overturned.

“Four passengers who were travelling from my village have survived, but a lot of people are injured or still missing. A lot of people died in the coach I was travelling in,” he added.

“I got hurt in my hand and also the back of my neck. When I came out, I saw someone had lost their hand, someone had lost their leg, while someone’s face was distorted,” the survivor told India’s ANI news agency.

Source: BBC