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A train crash in eastern India has killed more than 200 people, officials said, in one of the country’s deadliest railway accidents in decades.

At least 233 people were killed and 900 injured in a collision involving multiple trains in the state of Odisha on Friday night, according to the state’s chief secretary Pradeep Jena.

The Coromandel Express, which was travelling from Kolkata to Chennai in southern India, crashed into a derailed train travelling from Bengaluru to Kolkata. Local media reported that a stationary goods train was also caught up in the collision.

TV images showed train carriages strewn across the tracks, with some piling on to each other. Witnesses reported seeing the bodies of dead and maimed victims strewn around the site.

“When I got out of the train, I saw limbs scattered all around, a leg here, a hand there,” one survivor told broadcaster NDTV.

A rescue operation was under way on Saturday morning as workers continued to search for passengers trapped inside the crumpled carriages. Officials did not immediately say what led to the collision, which happened near the city of Balasore, and said they were investigating.

Friday’s accident was the deadliest since 1999, when a train accident in the state of West Bengal killed 285 people.

“There was a deafening sound, and then our train moved backwards and stopped with a massive jerk,” Vidhan Jena, a passenger on one of the trains said, according to the Times of India. “I was shocked to see bodies lying here and there. It was a terrible sight.”

India’s railway network is one of the world’s largest and is vital for nationwide passenger and goods transport.

But the ageing system suffers from chronic under-investment and there have been a series of tragic and deadly accidents. In 2016, a train derailed in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, killing more than 150 people.

India’s railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw wrote on Twitter on Friday night that he was “rushing to the site in Odisha”.

He added that rescue teams were being deployed from different states along with the country’s air force. “Will take all hands required for the rescue ops,” he said.

“In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter.

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