NEW DELHI — Fourteen coaches of an Indian train derailed early Sunday, crushing at least two coaches and passengers who were sleeping in the compartments in one of the worst train accidents here in recent years, police said.
At least 108 people died in the accident, with the death toll likely to rise, and at least 75 were injured and admitted to hospitals, said Rahul Srivastav, the public relations officer to the Director General of Police in the state of Uttar Pradesh, where the accident took place.
The accident occurred at 3 a.m. on Sunday about a mile from Pukhrayan railway station, about 40 miles southwest from the northern city of Kanpur, on a train bound for Patna, the capital of the state of Bihar.
“Three o’clock is the time when people are sleeping,” said Mr. Srivastav. The deaths and injuries occurred when people were “mostly falling over each other and colliding against the compartment,” he said, adding that the number of injuries are always higher at night.
Two coaches were crushed in the derailment, and people were hospitalized with head injuries and fractures, he said.
“The whole train was shaking,” said a young boy who was a passenger, in a televised interview with NDTV, a news channel. “My sister was there and my brothers were there. I found everyone except for my father.”
“I became very numb and I thought what has happened here?” said a young woman in a televised interview. “This is the first time I have seen such an incident.”
The Uttar Pradesh Police, the railway police, the National Disaster Response Force, and the state health department had been dispatched to the scene. Rescue efforts were ongoing Sunday afternoon, 12 hours after the accident.
“Cutters and gas cutters and all kind of instruments are needed when coaches get mangled and topple over each other,” said Mr. Srivastav.
India has long struggled to modernize its creaking railway infrastructure, which is one of the largest in the world but suffers from neglect and age.
The cause of the accident was unclear on Sunday. Ved Prakash, the director of information and publicity for the railways, said that he suspected a “rail fracture,” or a crack in the train track, though it was too early to be sure. Indian railways have recorded dozens of fractures of various tracks, according to The Hindu newspaper.
“The death is so high, we are really perturbed,” he said on Sunday in a telephone interview.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the government would provide 200,000 rupees, or nearly $3,000, to the families of those killed in the accident, above any amount offered by the Indian railways.