NALGONDA, (India), Oct 29 (AFP): At least 50 people died and more were feared killed when a passenger train derailed and toppled into swirling floodwaters in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh early Saturday, an AFP correspondent on the scene said.
He said he had seen at least 50 bodies recovered by rescuers by noon, some seven-and-a-half hours after the accident occurred.
Windows were broken on one wagon through which passengers appear to have escaped but two nearby carriages still appeared to contain bodies, he said.
The bodies which had been recovered were lying uncovered waiting for identification by family members.
Two army helicopters which had been lowering troops down to the submerged bogeys to conduct rescue operations later called off the operation because it was proving too difficult, officials at the scene said.
Rescue teams were instead using ropes and stretchers to help them wade through the water to reach the train carriages.
Boats had also been brought in to help with the removal of the bodies.
Police had earlier said up to 40 people were feared killed when eight carriages of the passenger train derailed as it hit a section of the track in Nalgonda district that had been submerged by floodwaters from an overflowing reservoir nearby.
The reservoir had been hit by flashfloods caused by rains which have swamped southern India for more than a week, a railways official said.
Esther Kar, for the railway ministry, said some people were still alive in the coaches, "but if they come out they will be swept away".
The army has 50 soldiers and six boats at the scene, Kar told AFP, adding that among those killed was the driver of the train.
Television pictures showed brown muddy waters swirling around the wreckage, with passengers waiting to be rescued standing on top of some of the carriages which had not been fully submerged.
South Central Railway spokesman Michael Fredericks said rain and flooding over the past two days had also made it difficult to get help to the derailed train.
"Because of the steady rain there are a number of difficulties because of which relief is taking longer to arrive," Fredericks told Zee News television channel.
"Medical relief vans with doctors from Secunderabad and Vijayawada have arrived there and first aid is being administered."
Television channels said swimmers from local villagers were trying to rescue people from the submerged coaches.
Some 500 passengers were travelling in the 14 coaches of the train at the time of the accident, a rail official in the operations room in the state capital Hyderabad told AFP.
One of the eight coaches that derailed was carrying 110 passengers.
The train was travelling between Secunderabad and Janata when it derailed between the stations of Ramanapet and Vellugonda, the official said.
State-run Indian Railways transports more than 13 million passengers daily on networks that sprawl 108,700 kilometers (66,800 miles) across the nation with a population of more than one billion.
Some 300 accidents are recorded every year, some of which result in hundreds of deaths.