At least 23 people were killed and 81 injured after six coaches of a passenger train derailed in northern India on Saturday, officials said.

Two of the coaches telescoped into each other, while four others toppled over after going off the track, said Arvind Kumar, a top official in Uttar Pradesh state.

Volunteers search for survivors
Volunteers search for survivors (AP)

Neeraj Sharma, a railway spokesman, said the incident took place near the small town of Khatauli.

The cause of the derailment was not known, Mr Sharma said.

The scene of the crash
The scene of the crash (AP)

Railway police and local volunteers helped pull passengers out of the upturned coaches of the Kalinga-Utkal Express, which connects the Hindu holy city of Haridwar with the temple town of Puri, in the eastern state of Orissa.

The injured were taken to a hospital, where doctors described their condition as stable.