Friday 19 April 2019

60 killed, many injured in India train tragedy

NEW DELHI, October 20, 2018

At least 60 people were killed and several others injured when two speeding trains mowed down people standing on the tracks near a railway crossing in Amritsar, said media reports. 
The victims were standing on the railway tracks watching celebrations for Dusshera, a Hindu festival, when a train hit them at high speed on Friday, reported the Indian Express.
Dozens more were hurt in the accident, some of them seriously, and overwhelmed local hospitals ran out of space for the dead, forcing them to leave some bodies outside.
The disaster, near Amritsar in the north of the country on Friday, led to new demands for safety reforms to India's accident-plagued railway system, which records thousands of deaths each year.
Reports said the train hit scores of people who had gathered on tracks to watch the burning of a firework-packed effigy of the demon king Ravana for a Hindu festival.
Police said victims did not hear the Jalandhar-Amritsar express arriving because the noise was drowned out by firecrackers.
Another train had narrowly missed the crowds two minutes earlier, officials said.
It is not clear who, if anyone, had given permission for the event and officials are trading blame, reported BBC.
An inquiry into the incident has been ordered by the Punjab authorities, it stated.
On Saturday scores of victims' families gathered at the tracks, criticising the state government and demanding action against the train's driver.
The families protests came even as reports emerged that Congress leader and Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu was the chief guest at the Ravana effigy burning event. 
The locals claim she continued to give the speech as people were struck down by the train. 
Later, she left immediately without helping the people. The angry people who had gathered at the accident site raised slogans against the Cabinet Minister and his wife.
A state of mourning was declared in Punjab with offices and schools staying closed on Saturday as the first funerals for identified victims took place. 
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the incident as "heart-wrenching" and expressed his condolences.
"Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required," he said in his twitter post.
According to eyewitnesses, at one point, some of the crowd moved on to some railway tracks a short distance away, with some reports citing organisers' safety concerns about the effigy.
Many on the tracks had been busy filming the festivities on their phones at the time so did not hear or see the train approaching at high speed, they stated.
Meanwhile, officials have warned identification of all the victims could take several days.
Ordering the inquiry, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh described the incident as "absolutely tragic".
He said officials would do "everything possible" to assist the injured.
Ashwani Lohani, the chairman of the Railway Board, said it was "wrong" to hold the railways responsible for what had happened because they had not been made aware of the event, and people "are not expected to be on the tracks".
But local residents have told media the effigy burning is a regular local event there for every Dusshera.
"I've been seeing this event every Dusshera from here and this has never happened before, the railways should have stopped or slowed down the train," Deep Kumari, who was watching from her home, told Reuters news agency.


Tags: Punjab | India train tragedy |


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