Sunday, Aug 14, 2022

At Least 60 Killed As Train Mows Down Dussehra Revellers Near Amritsar

Witnesses said that as the fire was set to the Ravan effigy amid exploding crackers, many of around 700 people gathered at the event moved back from the flames only to end up standing on the tracks.

Relatives mourn by the body of a victim of Amritsar train accident, in Punjab, India on October 19, 2018. A speeding train ran over a crowd watching fireworks during a religious festival of Dussehra, killing at least 50 people. AP Photo/Prabhjot Gill

In a tragic turn of events, at least 60 people were killed and over 50 injured after a speeding train run over Dussehra revellers near Amritsar, in Punjab on Friday.

The accident took place at Joda Fatak crossing where Dusshera celebrations were underway at around 6:30 PM local time. Initial reports suggest that crowd had spilt on to the rail line while watching the burning of Ravana effigy and the train run over a number of them.

According to news agency IANS, a large number of people were watching a huge Ravan effigy in flames while standing on the tracks at the railway crossing at Joda Phatak when the train on way from Pathankot to Amritsar mowed them down, triggering anger and outrage.

It was not clear why the train did not halt despite the presence of so many people on the tracks and why the railway crossing was left open for people to gather.

After the tragic accident, the Punjab government has declared one-day state mourning. All offices and educational institutions will remain closed on Saturday.

ANI shared a footage of the accident:

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has announced compensation of Rs. 5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and free treatment to all injured in the horrific accident. He also ordered an inquiry into the train accident.

The CM set up a Crisis Management Group to monitor the relief and rehabilitation efforts. The group is led by Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, with Revenue Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Technical Education Minister  Charanjit S Channi as members. The team has rushed to the accident site.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured all possible assistance from  the central government. He wrote in a Twitter post, "Pained beyond words at the loss of precious lives due to a train tragedy during Dussehra festivities in Punjab. My thoughts are with the families of the deceased and prayers with the injured."

Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned the death of several people in the accident.

"Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that that injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required," he tweeted.

PM approved Rs 2 lakh ex gratia for the family of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to those injured in the accident.

Meanwhile, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has cancelled all engagement in the United States and is returning to India.

Witnesses said that as the fire was set to the Ravan effigy amid exploding crackers, hundreds of people gathered at the event moved back from the flames only to end up standing on the tracks. 

Earlier, Sub Divisional Magistrate Amritsar I Rajesh Sharma said 50 bodies have been found and at least 50 injured have been admitted to a government hospital.

 "There are more than 50 casualties. We are evacuating people, injured taken to the hospital," said a police official, as quoted by ANI.

"The administration and the Dussehra committee are at fault, they should have raised an alarm when the train was approaching, they should have made sure that the train halts or slows down," said an eyewitness.

The officials said the toll may rise.

Railways issued helpline numbers: 0183-2223171, 0183-2564485
 (With Agency inputs)