Northern India: Train Crash Kills At Least 36 : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Nando Times

Train crash kills at least 36 in northern India

Agence France-Presse

NEW DELHI, India (December 2, 2000 8:06 a.m. EST - An express passenger train rammed into a derailed cargo train Saturday in the northern Indian state of Punjab, killing at least 36 and injuring nearly 150, police said.

Baldev Singh, a railway official at Sarai Banjara station near the accident site, told AFP the speeding train, running between the northern Sikh holy town of Amritsar and the eastern city of Calcutta, was packed.

"The latest toll is 36 killed and at least 141 people are injured." local police inspector Kanwaljeet Singh said.

The police official said there were still people stuck inside the overturned compartments.

"Welders are cutting through the derailed compartments to rescue the passengers," he said. "It is a pitiable sight ... people are crying for help and are pleading to be let out as soon as possible."

He said about six cranes had managed to remove three derailed compartments of the passenger train.

"But the 15 derailed bogies of the goods train is another matter. They need heavier cranes to lift them ... the railway is sending heavy-duty cranes."

The injured have been admitted to nearby hospitals in the towns of Fatehgarh, Patiala and Rajpura.

Punjab's police chief Sarabjeet Singh was supervising rescue work at the accident site.

Baldev Singh said the crash occurred at 6:00 am (0030 GMT) about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the northern town of Ambala between the two stations of Sarai Banjara and Sadhu Garh.

Ambala is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of New Delhi.

"Fifteen bogies of a goods train carrying foodgrain derailed near a village called Patharsi," he said. "Before this information had been passed on to the authorities in the two stations, another train was cleared.

"The Howrah-Amritsar Mail then crashed into the derailed train. The engine and five compartments went off the tracks. There are many people still trapped in the compartments."

Another official said local villagers were helping in rescue work.

"The moment they became aware of what had happened, they started coming out to pitch in and help in relief efforts," he said.

"They alerted us on the telephone and they were already on the tracks with lanterns as it was still fairly dark due to the morning fog to look for survivors.

"The women of the village came to the tracks and made tea and breakfast for the injured passengers. There are messages being played on loudspeakers from the local gurdwara (Sikh temple) asking everyone to help the victims."

Indian Railway officials said preliminary reports suggested the accident was caused "by the (passenger train) driver's wrong judgment."

However, Indian Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee raised the possibility the crash was caused by sabotage.

"There may be sabotage behind the accident. We will see to it," Banerjee told reporters in West Bengal state, adding that the state-owned railway company would compensate families of the victims and the injured.

Indian Railways said information booths had been set up in major stations across the country for people to inquire about passengers.

India's antiquated railway network, one of the world's largest, carries 13 million people to some 7,000 stations every day, but is plagued by an abysmal safety record.

There have been three major rail disasters in the past four years with at least 800 deaths and more than 2,000 injuries.

The latest disaster comes two years after a similar collision involving a derailed train claimed 220 lives.

-- Rachel Gibson (, December 02, 2000

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