At least 61 people were killed and 72 injured after a speeding train ploughed through Dussehra revellers standing across the tracks in Joda Phatak near Amritsar on Friday. Celebrations turned tragic as the train struck the crowd who were standing and watching Ravana’s effigy go up in flames. Rescue operations are currently underway.
Sub Divisional Magistrate Amritsar I Rajesh Sharma told PTI that 61 people have died, including women and children, and at least 72 injured have been admitted to Amritsar hospital.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said he was rushing to Amritsar to personally supervise relief and rescue in the tragic rail accident. “My govt will give Rs 5 lakh to kin of each deceased and free treatment to injured in government and private hospitals. District authorities have been mobilised on war footing,” CM Singh tweeted. He said he has directed the district administration to leave no stone unturned to ensure the best possible treatment for them.
Railways have issued helpline numbers: 0183-2223171, 0183-2564485 for kin to reach out and inquire about the victims in the accident.
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) October 19, 2018
A host of leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, have expressed condolences to the bereaved families of the victims.
Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 19, 2018
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced assistance to the state in every manner possible on behalf of the Centre following the incident and tweeted, “Pained beyond words at the loss of precious lives due to a train tragedy during Dussehra festivities in Punjab. My thoughts are with the families of the deceased and prayers with the injured.”
Singh also informed that he had already spoken to the Home secretary and DGP of Punjab who were rushing to the spot. “Centre is ready to provide all possible assistance to the state at this hour of grief,” he said
The opposition used the incident, making it political and attacked the ruling Congress government in the state for lapses in allowing celebrations near railway tracks. Punjab minister Navjot Kaur Sidhu who was the chief guest at the event faced allegations for leaving the site soon after the incident. Clearing her stand, Sidhu said that her priority was to ensure proper treatment for those injured and hence she had rushed to the hospital.
As per PTI, over 300 people were present at the venue to watch ‘Ravana Dahan’ when the speeding train travelling from Jalandhar to Amritsar passed by. People were in shock and disbelief as they narrated the incident. “The driver didn’t blow the horn,” alleged a witness.
The incident bears a striking similarity to a 2012 train accident in Kerala where the Trivandrum-Kozhikode Jan Shatabdi Express struck down people who were standing on the tracks to watch fireworks, killing three and injuring one person.