This was the second major accident in the state of West Bengal within two months. In May, a train sabotage blamed on Maoist rebels killed more than 70 people. The rebels denied the charge.
Officials said any terror link in Monday’s incident was unlikely, though an investigation was on to find out how both trains came to be on the same track.
The accident occurred when the Uttar Banga Express rammed into the stationary Vananchal Express at Sainthia in West Bengal, Saumitra Mohan, the area’s district magistrate, said.
“We have found the bodies of 49 people,” Samir Goswami, railway spokesman, said. “It looks like this is the final toll.”
The impact of the crash saw several coaches rise up in a heap of mangled mass.
Television images showed rescue workers cutting through the wreckage to pull out survivors. Some passengers were seen climbing out of emergency exit windows.
Hundreds of villagers milled around the accident site. Some helped in rescue operations.
“Such was the impact of the crash that one coach was flung onto an over-bridge,” said Madan Lal, a railway ticket collector who reached the spot immediately after the accident.
“It was around 2.15 (a.m.) (9:45 p.m. BST) when this happened. I could hear people crying and shouting in the dark,” he told NDTV news channel.
With a 63,327-kilometre (39,350 mile) network, the railways play a key role in Indian life, transporting more than 18 million passengers and more than 2 million tonnes of freight daily.
But the system is plagued by crowding and outdated technology. Every day, about 8 million passengers cram onto commuter trains in the financial hub of Mumbai, with roughly a dozen daily fatalities. Reuters