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Two trains derail in India, at least 12 dead

Rescue teams were searching for passengers after two trains derailed within minutes of each other while crossing a bridge in central India, local media reported Wednesday.

[MUMBAI] At least twelve people were killed when several carriages of two passenger trains derailed in central India overnight, a railways official said Wednesday. 

“There are 12 casualties,” West Central Railway spokesman Piyush Mathur told the CNN-IBN network, adding that the death toll could rise.

One of the trains was on its way to Mumbai when the accident happened in Madhya Pradesh state, while the other was travelling in the opposite direction, the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency reported.

PTI reported that the river below the bridge crossing had been swollen and there had been water on the tracks.

"Rushing emergency medical and other relief personnel to spot, darkness, water creating hurdles but ordered all possible help. Trying our best," India's Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said on Twitter.

India's railway network, one of the world's largest, is still the main form of long-distance travel in the vast country, but it is poorly funded and deadly accidents are frequent.

In 2012, a government report said almost 15,000 people were killed every year on India's railways, describing the deaths as an annual "massacre" due mainly to poor safety standards.

India's government has pledged to invest US$137 billion to modernise its crumbling railways, making them safer, faster and more efficient.