The accident took place around 3.00 a.m. when the Hubli-Bangalore Hampi Express hit the stationary goods train at Penukonda railway station, about 400 km from here.
More than 70 others were injured. The death toll may go up as some of the injured are stated to be in very critical condition.
Some passengers were still trapped inside the damaged bogies and the rescue workers were using gas cutters to rescue them.
The train 16591 which left Hubli at 6 p.m. Monday, was to reach Bangalore at 6 a.m. The train originates in Karnataka and passes through parts of Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh before re-entering Karnataka.
A signalling error appears to have led to the mishap, a railway official said.
Such was the impact of the collision that four bogies derailed and one of them even caught fire. The women’s compartment bore the brunt.
The dead include four children. Officials said some bodies were charred beyond recognition. All the victims are believed to be from Karnataka.
Local police, fire-fighting and railway personnel rushed to the spot and began rescue and relief operations.
Anantapur district collector Durga Das and other senior officials are supervising the rescue and relief operations. The collector said the injured were shifted to nearby hospitals.
Union Railways Minister Mukul Roy, who is rushing to the spot, has ordered an inquiry.
The railway minister also announced a compensation of Rs.5 lakh each to the next of the kin of the dead, Rs.1 lakh to grievously injured and Rs.50,000 to the other injured.
Andhra Pradesh’s Minister for Revenue Raghuveera Reddy, who visited the scene, told reporters that the 70 injured were shifted to hospitals in Penukonda, Hindupur and Puttaparthi.
He said the entire district administration swung into action for rescue and relief work.
Another state minister Sailajanath and Member of Parliament K. Chiranjeevi also visited the scene of the accident.
Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy directed the officials to provide all help to the injured and other passengers stranded at the station.