Amritsar Train Accident: Over 50 Dead as Dussehra Revellers Caught Between Two Trains
The accident took a political turn with the Opposition accusing the state's Congress government for lapses in allowing celebrations near railway tracks.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Friday ordered an inquiry into the tragic Amritsar train accident in which over 50 people were killed and 72 injured. The CM also declared a one-day mourning in the state on Saturday.
A train en route to Amritsar from Jalandhar ran over a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled onto railway tracks while watching burning of Ravana effigy between Manawala and Ferozpur stations at Jodha Phatak near Amritsar.
At least 300 people were at the spot watching 'Ravana dahan' at a ground near the tracks. As the effigy was lit and the fireworks went off, a section of the crowd started retreating towards the tracks where a large number of people were already standing to watch the event, said officials. However, two trains arrived from the opposite direction at the same time giving little opportunity to people to escape, they said.
Acting on the chief minister's directives, Rehabilitation Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Health Minister Brahm Mohindra have already rushed to Amritsar to supervise rescue and relief operations
The CM has issued orders to mobilise all necessary administrative and police personnel on a war footing to help the district administration tackle the situation.
The chief minister has also directed the chief secretary to deploy administrative officials to ensure that the injured people are hospitalised immediately.
All private hospitals have been asked to remain open to provide urgent free treatment and care to the injured, said Amarinder Singh.
The chief minister said a thorough probe will be conducted into the incident. Why an effigy was allowed to be burnt close to the railway tracks will also be investigated.
The accident took a political turn with the Opposition accusing the state's Congress government for lapses in allowing celebrations near railway tracks and Punjab minister Navjot Sidhu's wife facing allegations of leaving the site soon after the incident.
Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was the chief guest at the event, later talked to media at a hospital where injured were taken and said her priority was to ensure they receive proper treatment.
"The effigy of Ravana was burnt and I had just left the site when the incident happened. Priority should be to get the injured treated," she said. She also asked people to refrain from politicising the issue.
Expressing condolences to the families of the deceased, the chief minister has announced immediate ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of the kin of those killed.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Rs 2 lakh relief for the family of each of those who died in the accident and Rs 50,000 for those injured.
MoS Railways Manoj Sinha told reporters in New Delhi that medical teams are rushing to the spot.
"I am also leaving for the site of the accident. As per initial information, people present near the railway track couldn't hear the sound of the approaching train due to bursting of crackers," he said before leaving for Amritsar.
Railways has issued helpline numbers 0183-2223171, 0183-2564485 for the kin of those injured and dead in the accident between Manawala and Ferozpur stations near Amritsar.
The death toll, according to local officials, could rise drastically.
"Shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic train incident that occurred in Amritsar. My heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. I pray for the injured to recover quickly. Railways is conducting immediate relief and rescue operations," Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted from the US, where he had gone to attend an event. He said he is returning to India immediately.
The accident comes days after five people died and around 35 injured after five coaches and the engine of the New Farakka Express (Train No. 14003) derailed near Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh on October 12.
(With PTI inputs)
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