A Chinese bullet train lost power after being struck by lightning and was hit from behind by another train, sending four carriages off a bridge, killing at least 35 people and injuring 191, state media reported.

The official Xinhua News Agency said four cars on the second train plunged about 20 to 30 metres off the bridge.

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Emergency workers carry out rescue operations while a crowd gathers among the wreckage of two carriages after a bullet train derailed and fell off a bridge following a collision with a second train. ((China Daily/Reuters))

The first train was travelling from the Zhejiang provincial capital of Hangzhou when the accident occurred in Wenzhou city at about 8:30 p.m. local time, Xinhua said.

Pictures on the Internet showed one badly damaged car lying on its side by the bridge and the second car leaning against the bridge after landing on its end.

Xinhua quoted an unidentified witness as saying "rescuers have dragged many passengers out of the coach that fell on the ground."

The trains involved are "D" trains, the first generation bullet train with an average speed of about 150 kilometres per hour and not as fast as the new Beijing-Shanghai line.

Xinhua said the train hit by lightning was "D3115." It said the Ministry of Railways confirmed that it was hit from behind by train "D301."

China has spent billions of dollars and plans more massive spending to link the country with a high-speed rail network.

Recently, power outages and other malfunctions have plagued the showcase high-speed line between Beijing and Shanghai since it opened on June 30.

Official plans call for China's bullet train network to expand to 13,000 kilometres of track this year and 16,000 kilometres by 2020.

The huge spending connected with the rail expansion also has been blamed for corruption, and Railways Minister Liu Zhijun was dismissed this spring amid an investigation into unspecified corruption allegations.

No details have been released about the allegations against him, but news reports say they include kickbacks, bribes, illegal contracts and sexual liaisons.