Angry locals and pilgrims set ablaze six bogies of the train, brutally assaulted its driver and took several railway officials hostage.
Additional Director General of Police S.K. Bhardwaj confirmed the death of 35 Hindu pilgrims (Kanwariyas) when the Rajya Rani Express train mowed them down while they were trying to cross the rail track at the Dhamara railway station on the Saharsa-Mansi route of the East Central Railway (ECR).
The death toll may increase because detailed information is yet to come from the accident site, he said.
The train was travelling from Saharsa to Patna when the accident took place between 8 am and 8.30 a.m. The express train does not have a scheduled stop at Dhamara station.
"The accident took place when pilgrims were trying to cross the railway track after alighting from a local train," he said.
Soon after the incident, angry pilgrims and locals set ablaze six bogies, including one AC coach, of the train and attacked railway officials.
"Some angry people attacked the train driver and seriously injured him. They beat him up mercilessly. Besides, some railway officials have been held hostage by them," a police official said.
Bhardwaj said top officials of the district administration have been asked to rush to the accident site.
In the month of Shravan (July-August), thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit a temple in Deoghar, Jharkhand, where they offer holy water from the Ganga river to Lord Shiva at an ancient temple.
PM expresses shock
Expressing shock and deep sorrow at the loss of lives of pilgrims who were run over by a speeding trainz Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday appealed for "calm" so that relief and rescue operations could be carried out.
"The Prime Minister has expressed deep sorrow and shock at the loss of lives of pilgrims caused by the accident at Katyani Sthan, in Khagaria District, Bihar," a statement issued here said.
"The Prime Minister has also appealed for calm in the area so that the relief and rescue operations can be carried out without any hindrance," the statement said.
The prime minister has also directed the railways to deploy all available resources in the area for rescue and relief operations.
Bihar CM expresses grief
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed grief at the incident and asked railway officials to launch rescue operations and arrange proper treatment for the injured.
(With IANS inputs)