Beijing: The death toll in China's first bullet train crash has risen to 43 as the shocked government on Sunday sacked three top rail officials holding them responsible for the accident that also left 211 passengers injured.

The accident took place on Saturday night when a train that lost power after being struck by lightning was hit by another train, sending four compartments plunging from a viaduct and derailing another two, officials said as rescuers on Sunday recovered eight more bodies from the wreckage.

The first train was travelling south from Hangzhou, the capital of southern Zhejiang Province, when it lost power and stalled, before being hit by another train in Wenzhou city, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

There was, however, some good news as a toddler was rescued about 21 hours after the deadly crash, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

"When we found him, he could still move his hands," a local firefighter said, adding clean-up efforts have nearly been completed.

The sacked officials are Long Jing, head of the Shanghai Railway Bureau, Li Jia, head of the Shanghai railway bureau's committee of the Communist Party of China and deputy chief of the bureau He Shengli. They will also be subject to investigation.

Pan Yiheng, the driver of one train died after the brake handle pierced through his chest under the impact of the collusion. He managed to apply the emergency brake at the last moment of his life.

Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao called for all-out efforts to rescue passengers and ordered to make rescue work a priority.

Mayor of Wenzhou Zhao Yide said there were over 1,400 passengers on the two trains. "Searches are underway and we won't allow a single sign of life to slip away."

Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang rushed to Wenzhou to oversee the relief work and conduct investigation.

An elderly woman and her family survived the crash by jumping through a broken window of the deformed train carriage.

"The lights suddenly went off. The carriage began shaking heavily and passengers were stumbling around," said Feng, who declined to give her full name. "We didn't know what happened, but I instinctively shouted to my boy, 'Run! You run! It's okay if grandma dies'."

Passengers on the train were also crying for help via microblog soon after the accident.

A microblogger named "Sam Is Me" wrote on that he was stranded in a coach on the railway in Wenzhou City. "Please help me!...Help!!! Help!!!" he wrote. "I'm so scared."

The accident was a major setback to the high speed rail network in China which has been launched with lot of fanfare and billions of dollars of investment. It was also the first derailment on China's high-speed rail network since the bullet trains were launched with a top speed of 250 kilometres per hour in 2007.

The operation of 58 trains was suspended, railway authorities said, adding the damaged train tracks were under repair, with service expected to be resumed later on Sunday.