BEIJING - A high-speed passenger train jumped the tracks and slammed into another train in eastern China on Monday, killing at least 66 people and injuring 247, a state news agency reported.
Seventy people were in critical condition after the pre-dawn crash in a rural area in the middle of Shandong province, Xinhua News Agency said on its Web site. The injured included four French nationals who were hospitalized with bone fractures, it said.
The train traveling from Beijing to the coastal city of Qingdao derailed and hit the second passenger train at about 4:40 a.m., Xinhua reported. About 10 of the first train's carriages toppled into a dirt ditch.
The second train, traveling from Yantai to Xuzhou, was also derailed, although it did not fall into the ditch. A news photo showed one of its carriages resting perpendicular to the track.
It was not clear what caused the first train to derail outside the city of Zibo.
News photos showed rescuers pulling passengers from a carriage that had fallen onto its side. Survivors bundled in white bed sheets from the sleeper cars stood or sat near the wreckage.
Xinhua said bloodstained sheets and broken thermos flasks could be seen on the ground besides the twisted train cars.
The crash was in a rural area outside Zibo. Dozens were being treated at the Zou village People's Hospital, though most were not serious cases, Xinhua reported, citing an unnamed hospital worker.
A doctor at the emergency clinic of the Zibo Center Hospital said all the major hospitals in the Zibo area were treating the injured. She gave no figures and would not give her name.
Xinhua did not say how many people were on both trains. Most of the passenger would have been asleep when the accident happened.
"We were still sleeping when the accident occurred," one woman told Xinhua, which did not provide her name. The woman, 38, was traveling with her 13-year-old daughter. Both were not hurt and escaped from the train through a huge crack in the floor of their carriage.
President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao were monitoring the situation, China Central Television reported. Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang and Railways Minister Liu Zhijun were headed to the site to oversee rescue efforts.
Nine hotels and 34 rescue centers were set up for the families of the victims, Xinhua said.
Xinhua said the accident had cut traffic on the Jinan-Qingdao railway, which links the provincial capital of Jinan with Qingdao, the site of sailing competition for the Olympic Games in August.
It was the second major railway accident in Shandong this year. In January, 18 people died when a train hurtling through the night at more than 75 mph slammed into a group of about 100 workers carrying out track maintenance near the city of Anqiu.
The railway is the most popular way to travel in China, and the country's extensive network carried 1.36 billion passengers last year, Xinhua said. That is slightly behind India, which had 1.4 billion passengers last year, according to the Indian National Railways Web site.