Train mows down crowd at India festival, at least 50 dead

The body of a victim of a train accident lies covered in cloth on a railway track in Amritsar India Friday Oct. 19

The gathering of people close to tracks was a "clear case of trespassing", a senior official had said Friday, after the accident in Amritsar in which the speeding train ran through people standing on the track and watching a Ravana effigy burn.

R.C. Yadav, former chairman of Punjab state's Workers Welfare Board, said that numerous 60 killed and dozens injured when a speeding train ran over a crowd celebrating the Hindu festival of Dussehra on Friday night had left their families in neighboring states to work in factories and shops in Punjab.

"There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated", Manoj Sinha told reporters in New Delhi, adding "trains travel in speed only". One account said two trains arrived from the opposite direction at the same time giving little opportunity to people to escape. In his statement, the driver said that he applied the emergency brakes while continuously blowing the horn yet some people came under the train.

At least 59 people were killed after a crowd of Dasara revellers that had spilled onto railway tracks was run over by a train near Joda Phatak here.

India's rail system - among the longest in the world - has had a dismal safety record. A political focus on keeping fares low for the 23 million passengers who use the network daily has resulted in decades of underinvestment in rail safety infrastructure, critics said. The deaths were between 2015 and 2017.

The incident took place on Friday evening when at least 300 people were watching the "Ravana Dahan" at a ground adjacent to the tracks. Why was it organized there? Immediately after the accident, people rushed to the site and shouted at officials for not taking precautions.

Witnesses report several children among the victims, and rescue operations are now underway, as police and volunteers search for bodies under the debris. According to reports, the train was coming from Jalandhar to Amritsar when the accident occurred at Joda Phatak ( railway crossing).

Video footage running on television stations and social media showed giant effigies burning in the distance and crackers going off while the train runs through in the foreground. Most shocking was the allegation on minister Navjot Sidhu's wife, who was accused of leaving the site right after the accident. "They should have made sure that the train halts or slow down", he said.

Bikram Singh Majitha, a leader of the regional Akali Dal party, said the effigy burning usually happens at sunset, not later.

Questioned over the delay in reaching Amritsar after a train accident that killed 59 people, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday said that the state government is doing the best it can and the entire state cabinet is in the city. "At midsections (between level crossings), trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to be on the tracks".

A large number of people live in the area with homes on both sides of the railroad track, she said.

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