At least 16 people have died after two high-speed trains collided in China in a freak accident that also sent scores to the hospital.

Chinese media reported that one bullet-train, holding over 100 people per carriage, was struck by lightning, taking down systems and cutting all electrical power.

It subsequently slammed into another train, killing nearly a dozen confirmed passengers, and sending 89 to the hospital as two carriages fell of a bridge.

A rescue operation was under way. Some passengers told China's Xinhua that they had to smash windows to escape. Some 133 passengers have been rescued by 13:50 EST.

China's rail system has been plagued by scandals and safety violations over the past few months, according to Reuters.

Three railway officials have been probed for corruption so far this year.

Though spearheading the investment to expand rail across China, Liu Zhijun was sacked in February for serious disciplinary violations.

The struck train was carrying 1,300 to 1,400 passengers, officials said.