Sixteen migrant workers were run over by a train in Aurangabad city of Maharashtra on Friday morning while they were trying to return to their rural homes in Madhya Pradesh.
They had been walking along the rail tracks and slept there due to exhaustion. They were mowed down by a goods train that was running between Jalna and Aurangabad at 5.15 am.
One person was also injured in the accident and has been taken to the civil hospital. Four of the survivors, who are in shock, are being counselled by the police, SP Mokshada Patil said.
The labourers, officials said, all worked at an iron factory in Jalna and were headed back to Madhya Pradesh amid the coronavirus lockdown.
Patil told News18 that the workers were walking from Jalna to Bhuvasal, a distance of nearly 170km, to catch a train to return home. They had stopped near the track to take rest after covering a distance of around 45 km.
The Railways said the driver honked to alert the sleeping migrants and tried to stop the train, but failed. An inquiry has been ordered into the accident.
"During early hours today after seeing some labourers on track, loco pilot of goods train tried to stop the train but eventually hit them between Badnapur and Karmad stations in Parbhani-Manmad section," the railways ministry said in a tweet.
Images from the scene of the accident showed the tracks were strewn with footwear and other personal belongings of the workers. Even the food they were carrying for their journey was seen on the tracks.
The survivors, who were resting nearby and not on the tracks, said they frantically raised alarm to alert their group members sleeping on tracks about the fast-approaching train, but their shouts went unheard.
"The three survivors, who were resting a little away, tried to wake up the people sleeping on the tracks by frantically shouting, but that provide futile as the train ran over them," the SP said.
"This is an unfortunate incident. Out of the 20 people, 16 died, one is injured and three are with us. A case will be registered at the Karmad police station," she added.
The survivors were identified as Inderlal Dhurve (20 district Mandla), Virendrasingh Gaur (27, district Umaria) and Shivman Singh Gaur (27, district Shahdol) and the injured Sajjan Singh (resident of Khajeri district).
A video clip from the scene of the tragedy showed the mutilated bodies of migrant workers lying on the tracks and nearby with their meagre personal belongings scattered around. Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader and state minister Sandipan Bhumre and Member of Legislative Assembly Ambadas Danve visited the Government Medical College and Hospital here and met the injured.
Danve said, "The state government is making efforts to send migrant workers to their home states. People should have patience."
The deceased includeed Dhansingh Gond, Nirlesh Singh Gond, Buddharaj Singh Gond, Rabendra Singh Gond, Rajbohram Paras Singh, Dharmendra Singh Gond, Shreedayal Singh Suresh Singh Kaul, Santosh Napit, Brijesh Bheyadin (all from Shahdol district), Bigendra Singh, Pradeep Singh Gond, Nemshah singh Munim singh (all Umaria district).
One of the deceased was identified as Acchelal Singh, but his native district was not yet known, police officials said, adding another vicitm was yet to be identified.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted he was extremely anguished by the loss of lives due to the rail accident. “Have spoken to Railway Minister Shri Piyush Goyal and he is closely monitoring the situation. All possible assistance required is being provided,” he wrote.
Madhya Pradesh and the Maharashtra governments have announced Rs 5 lakh compensation each for the families of the deceased.