CHANDIGARH: At least 61 people, including women and children, were mowed down by speeding trains that left 72 others injured near Amritsar on Friday, as Dussehra revelry spilled on the adjacent railway tracks.Tragedy struck around 6.45 pm at Dhobi Ghat near Jaura Phatak railway crossing at gate number 27 between Amritsar and Manawala when revellers were watching an effigy of Ravana burn about 200 ft away while standing between railway tracks.
They were perhaps distracted by the noise of firecrackers as the Nakodar Jalandhar DMU No. 74943, a local passenger train, came speeding in. The happy crowd were shooting videos of the event when the first train hit them. As another train arrived from the opposite direction at the same time, people on the track had little opportunity to escape.There were about 500 people at the spot when the accident occurred. The accident set off a stampede with people running helter-skelter for safety.
#Punjab: At gate no. 27 b/w Amritsar & Manawala. As Dussehra celebration was taking place some incident had occurred& people started rushing towards closed gate number 27 while a DMU train number 74943 was passing the closed gate: CPRO Northern Railway; Visuals from accident site pic.twitter.com/TMJILYC6Or— ANI (@ANI) October 19, 2018
It all happened in a flash and dismembered body parts lay strewn on the blood-soaked ground. Many bodies could not even be identified. Wails of people filled the air as friends and relatives frantically looked for their near and dear ones. Severed bodies, including that of many children, were still lying on the accident site hours after the incident with angry people not allowing the authorities to remove them.
“I have lost my minor child. I want him back,” an inconsolable mother wailed.
Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of state local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was the chief guest of the event. Locals alleged she left the venue moments after the accident.Punjab will observe a day of mourning on Saturday. All offices and educational institutions will remain closed.
Administration, Dussehra panel blamed
“As Dussehra celebration were under way, people started rushing towards closed gate number 27 while a DMU train number 74943 was passing by,” said a railway official. An eyewitness said, “The administration and the Dussehra committee are at fault. They should have raised an alarm when the train was approaching; they should have made sure the train halted or slowed down.”
“There were no barricades near the railway tracks and people were forced to see the Dussehra ceremony standing on the tracks,” said another eyewitness. Amirtsar Police Commissioner SS Srivastava said, “There are more than 50 casualties. We are evacuating people and the injured are being taken to the hospital.” Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Amritsar I, Rajesh Sharma, said 50 bodies had been found and at least 50 injured had been admitted to a government hospital.
#Punjab: Eyewitness say, "The administration and the Dussehra committee are at fault, they should have raised an alarm when the train was approaching, they should have made sure that the train halts or slows down." #Amritsar pic.twitter.com/xdwXpr0L1H— ANI (@ANI) October 19, 2018
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has ordered a probe into the accident. He was scheduled to leave for Israel on Friday evening, but postponed his trip and will fly to Amritsar in the morning to assess the damage and meet families of the victims.
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Acting on the Chief Minister’s directives, Rehabilitation Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Health Minister Brahm Mohindra have already gone to Amritsar. The Home Secretary and the Health Secretary, along with the DGP, Law and Order, have also left for Amritsar .He announced ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the kin of the deceased .The Amritsar administration has set up a helpline (No. 01832421050).