NEW DELHI, India -- Divers dragged 216 bodies from the Bagamti River Tuesday but said swift, muddy currents hampered the search for an estimated 800 more victims of what was believed to be the world's worst train wreck.
Villagers in Bihar State, 650 miles southeast of New Delhi, claimed to have caught and lynched the chief engineer and conductor of the train, whose rear seven cars derailed and plunged off a bridge Saturday.
Officials could not confirm the claim and said the engineer and conductor were still listed as missing after fleeing the scene of the accident.
More than 20,000 relatives jammed the sides of the riverbanks, sobbing and struggling to glimpse the bodies as they were dragged ashore.
Nets were spread out across the river to try to catch bodies swept downstream by the currents and loudspeakers announced a reward of $3 for each body recovered by villagers.
Officials estimated at least 1,000 people died when the combination of a sudden stop and strong winds pushed seven of the train's overcrowded cars off the bridge. Six cars plunged 150 feet into the river while the seventh car, a first class coach, hit the riverbank and splintered apart.
District Magistrate Krishna Chandra Saha said the driver of the train slammed on the breaks to avoid hitting an ox standing on the bridge's railway tracks. As the cars derailed, Chandra said, heavy gusts of wind knocked them off the bridge.
Only two other train wrecks, both in 1944, killed more than 500 people. On Jan 16, 1944 a train crashed in a tunnel in Spain killing between 500 and 800 passengers and two months later a train stalled in a tunnel in Italy, suffocating 526 people.
India's army, navy, and air force was trying to coordinate with railway and civil officials to speed the slow recovery efforts and keep Prime Minister Indira Gandhi briefed.