At least 50 killed after train ploughs into crowd in India

Blanche Robertson
October 21, 2018

A blame game played out over the Dussehra tragedy in Amritsar, while the police admitted they gave the organizers a no-objection certificate, where 61 Dussehra revellers were mowed down by a train.

The Railways was not informed about the Dusshera ceremony near the Jora Phatak vicinity either by the area administration or the event organisers, he added.

Grieving relatives and residents, some of whom were still scouring the bloodied fields for belongings of their loved ones, said there was no warning from the train as it rolled down the tracks just as firecrackers exploded in the sky during the annual Dusshera festival. According to a Railway spokesperson, they got clearance to operate on the section at 12.30 pm and First goods train started from Manawala to Amritsar at 1416 hours. The angry people who had gathered at the accident site raised slogans against the Cabinet Minister and his wife.

Another witness said the victims did not realise that a train was coming because the fireworks were too loud.

The disaster has led to renewed demands for safety reforms to India's accident-plagued railway system, which records thousands of deaths each year. He said the train was running at its assigned speed and initial reports suggest that the driver applied brakes and the train slowed down. Another train had narrowly missed the crowds two minutes earlier, officials said.

Data from Parliament in July showed that 49,790 people died while on train tracks. However it was also the responsibility of the railway staff that clears tracks and keeps an eye on obstacles, sources said.

In a video that has gone viral on social media, a stage manager was seen boasting to Navjot Kaur about 5,000 people standing on the railway tracks.

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The accident happened near Jodha Pathak area of Amritsar on Friday evening.

"Minister of State for Railways is also rushing to the spot".

The Chief Minister expressed grief at the tragic incident, extending his government's full support to the victims and their families. The railway crossing gates were closed and the crossing was manned. "We must have made this announcement at least 15 times but people did not listen", he said.

The Punjab government on Saturday ordered a magisterial probe into the train tragedy.

The train that hit the crowds was travelling from Jalandhar to Amritsar city. In November 2016, the Patna-Indore express derailed in Uttar Pradesh state in the middle of the night, killing 139 people.

Meanwhile, opposition parties in Punjab, including BJP, AAP and SAD have called for stringent against those responsible for the event and dismissal of Sidhu from the state government.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who was in the U.S., cancelled all his engagements and was set to return.

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