More than 50 dead in India train disaster

AMRITSAR - A speeding train ran over revellers watching fireworks during a Hindu festival in northern India on Friday, killing more than 50 people, with eyewitnesses saying they were given no warning before disaster struck.

The crowd had gathered on railway tracks in the city of Amritsar in Punjab state to watch a fireworks show marking the Dussehra festival when the train barrelled down the line at high speed.

"There was a lot of noise as firecrackers were being let off and it appears they (victims) were unable to hear the approaching train," a police official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"There are more than 50 dead. The priority now is to take the injured to the hospital," Amritsar city police commissioner S. S. Srivastava told reporters.

More than 60 people who were injured were being given emergency treatment at various hospitals across the city, he added.

TV footage showed crowds gathered around the venue where an effigy of demon king Ravana was set alight, exploding into a huge fireball.

An eyewitness speaking to a local TV channel described scenes of "utter commotion" when the crowds noticed the train "coming very fast" towards them.

"Everyone was running helter-skelter and suddenly the train crashed into the crowds of people," he said.

Some relatives of the deceased blamed the authorities for allowing a "big function" to be held next to the railway track.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered an investigation into the accident and announced a monetary compensation of 500,000 rupees ($6,800) to each family of the victims.

"We have asked all hospitals to remain open through the night so that the injured can be treated," Singh told reporters.

He declared a day of mourning across the state, ordering all offices and educational institutions to be closed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was extremely saddened by the "heart-wrenching tragedy" and asked officials to provide immediate assistance to the injured.

Source
AFP