At least 60 people were killed in two major rail and road accidents in India on Monday.
While at least 32 passengers were killed by a fire on a train in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, 29 pilgrims were killed in a collision between two trucks in the northern state of Haryana.
The pilgrims were killed when they were returning home after visiting a Hindu temple in the nearby Bhiwani district of Rajasthan state, about 120km west of the capital New Delhi.
The passengers on the train bound for the city of Chennai were killed when one of its carriages caught fire while it was moving.
The fire was discovered at a railway station in Nellore in Andhra Pradesh. The coach was completely gutted, with rescuers forced to use gas cutters to access parts of it. At least 22 injured people have been hospitalised.
Local official B. Sridhar said the fire was believed to have been caused by a short circuit in the coach, although a railway spokesman said it may have been caused by "someone carrying in flammable materials on the train".
Sreedhar said that identifying the dead was a difficult task.
"Some of the bodies are charred beyond recognition,'' he said, adding that officials had made preliminary identifications based on the reservations chart from the train's records.
Images of the site showed thick, black smoke still pouring out of the charred carriage, as dawn broke over the accident scene. Dozens of rescuers, survivors and crowds of onlookers milled around the burned carriage, as the blackened bodies of victims were pulled out of the wreckage and laid in rows alongside the railway line.
Family members of the victims wailed and screamed, while other dazed survivors sat quietly with their belongings.
"I woke up when people were rushing into our compartment, I was in S-10 which was attached to the S-11 coach that caught fire," passenger Shantanu, who gave only one name, told the NDTV news channel. "There was smoke all around. We tried to open the emergency window, people jumped out of it."
The carriage was designed to carry around 70 people, and was travelling at about 110km per hour when it passed through Nellore station.
Railway Minister Mukul Roy said an investigation was under way.
"Nothing can be excluded and nothing can be said without an investigation," Roy told reporters shortly before rescue officials wrapped up their nearly 12-hour search for bodies.
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|F. William Engdahl|