updated 6/16/2004 1:55:57 AM ET 2004-06-16T05:55:57

At least 20 people were killed Wednesday when a passenger train hit boulders on a bridge and jumped the tracks in western India, the railway minister said. At least 50 passengers were hospitalized with injuries.

The locomotive of the Bombay-bound Matsyagandha Express derailed and fell off the bridge and two of the train's eight coaches were hanging precariously in the Raigad district of Maharashtra state, spokeswoman Vaishali Patange told The Associated Press.

At least 20 people were killed, Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav. Earlier, Patange said 12 bodies had been recovered from the two hanging coaches.

The rail track slices through hills on both sides. Boulders had streamed onto the tracks from a nearby cliff following heavy monsoon rains, the railway minister said.

The accident took place nearly 125 miles south of Bombay, the capital of western Maharashtra state and India's commercial hub.

A similar derailment in the region in June last year killed 51 passengers -- the first accident since the 472-mile rail line was built to link Bombay with tourist destinations of Goa and Mangalore in 1998.

The route is considered one of India's most scenic railroad journeys. It cuts through hills and rivers along the western coast and has 91 tunnels between Bombay and Mangalore.

Ajit Gawli, medical superintendent of a government-run hospital in Mahad, a town 12 miles west of the accident site, said 20 people had died and at least 50 others were hospitalized with injuries. Three of the injured were in serious condition with fractures and chest injuries. He said six of those killed were young children.

"It's very difficult to approach the accident site," Ashok Kulkarni, a doctor at the Mahad hospital, told The Associated Press by telephone. "The only approach is through a winding road over the hills."

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