Police said the toll set to rise amid a scramble to locate survivors as people were still missing.
The death toll was initially put at 60 with more than 80 injured.
Police said the toll set to rise amid a scramble to locate survivors as people were still missing, while authorities tried to determine what caused the derailment of 14 carriages of the train.
The train was traveling between the northeastern city of Patna and the central city of Indore, but suddenly roll off the tracks in Pukhrayan, 65 km south of Kanpur city.
Authorities said they were checking the condition of the tracks but would need to look further before concluding the cause of the derailment.
It was another India’s deadliest rail tragedy since more than 140 died in a 2010 collision in West Bengal.
Desperate survivors searched for family members and some tried to enter the damaged carriages to rescue relatives and collect belongings, said senior railway official Pratap Rai.
“We are using every tactic to save lives but it’s very difficult to cut the metal carriages,” he said from the accident site.
Kanpur district magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma told Reuters that 119 people were confirmed dead, while 78 of the injured remained in hospital, four of them in a critical condition.
With rescue teams still looking for victims amid the wreckage, the toll from the derailment could rise to become India’s worst rail tragedy in this century.
In what was probably India’s worst rail disaster, a train plunged off a bridge and into a river in 1981 in Bihar state, killing an estimated 500 to 800 people.
India’s creaking railway system is the world’s fourth largest. It runs 11,000 trains a day, including 7,000 passenger trains carrying more than 20 million people.
But it has a poor safety record, with thousands of people dying in accidents every year, including in train derailments and collisions.
Suresh Prabhu, India’s railways minister, said in a tweet that the government would investigate the causes of the derailment and promised accountability with the “strictest possible action”, as well as compensation for the affected passengers.