The derailment is thought to have been caused by a technical fault

At least 39 people have been killed after nine coaches of a passenger train derailed in eastern India, police have said.

The express train from Jagdalpur to Bhubaneswar came off the track near Kuneri station, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, around 18 miles (30km) outside the town of Raigarh.

“Nine bogies [coaches] were derailed of which three have turned and fallen off the track,” said local Superintendent of Police LKV Ranga Rao.

“Most of the casualties and deaths are from the three sleeper-class Compartments.

Video footage from the scene showed disaster management workers and locals trying to rescue trapped passengers from the wreckage, using phones to provide light.

“The rescue operation is almost over,” said JP Mishra, chief public relations officer at East Coast Railway, which has jurisdiction over the area where the derailment occurred.

“Our first priority is to take care of the injured passengers and provide them proper treatment by shifting them to hospitals.

“We are also searching all the coaches to ensure that nobody remains stranded in them,” he said.

Around 50 people are said to have been injured in the crash.

The derailment is thought to have been caused by a technical fault, Mr Rao said.

India’s railway system is the world’s third largest, but is severely hampered by a lack of modern signalling and communication systems as well as poor maintenance of tracks and equipment.

Manual signalling is still used at several places, raising the risk of human error.

According to a government report in 2012, about 15,000 people are killed every year in train accidents. The worst occurred in 1981, when a train fell into the Baghmati River in northern India, killing nearly 800 people.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged last year to invest $137bn over the next five years to modernise the railway network, which is used by about 23 million passengers a day.