PALGHAT, India (AP) _ Three cars of a passenger train plunged off a bridge into a river in southern India on Friday, reportedly killing as many as 57 people and injuring 288, officials and news reports said.
Rescuers have recovered 46 bodies and another five were buried beneath the wreckage of one submerged coach, said Vishwanath Sinha, deputy collector of Kozhikode district. A dozen naval divers were scouring the muddy bottom of the Kadalundi River for more bodies, he said.
The private STAR television network put the death toll at 57. Press Trust of India news agency said relatives have already identified 37 bodies.
The Mangalore-Chennai Mail train was crossing a bridge when the last three cars derailed around 5 p.m., plunging more than 100 feet into the river, said officials in Kozhikode. One of the cars was reserved for women.
Three other cars also derailed and were hanging from the 1,200-foot-long bridge, which spans the Kadalundi where it flows into the Arabian Sea in the southern Indian state of Kerala.
The Indian Express newspaper quoted railroad officials as saying that one of the piers of the 260-yard-long bridge broke, causing a coupling to fracture.
The water was not very deep at the accident site, and the cars that fell into the river were only partially submerged, Sinha said.
Villagers in boats helped firefighters and police pull passengers from the partially submerged cars. Crowds stood along the riverbanks to watch the rescue efforts, carried out by flashlight under heavy rain.
The Kairali news channel showed footage of wet and bleeding victims being taken to hospitals in Kozhikode, about 12 miles away. More than 200 have been hospitalized, most with head injuries, railroad officials said in Palghat.
Kozhikode is about 840 miles south of New Delhi. The train was headed from the southwestern port city of Mangalore to Madras in the south.
India records around 300 accidents a year on its aging railroads, the largest rail network under one management in the world. Last month, a train hit a bus at an unmanned railroad crossing, killing 31 people.