Train Runs Over Dussehra Crowd on Amritsar Track

At least 58 people were killed after a crowd watching burning of a Ravana effigy spilled over railway tracks and was run over by an approaching train at Joda Phatak near Amritsar. The train from Jalandhar to Amritsar ploughed through the crowd who got little chance of escape as another train arrived on the adjacent track, officials said.

At least 300 people were at the spot watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at a ground near the tracks. As the effigy was lit and fireworks went off, a section of the crowd retreated towards the tracks where a large number of people were watching the event. Two trains from opposite directions arrived almost at the same time, giving little chance for people to escape and resulting in several being mowed down by one of the trains, officials said.

Amritsar sub-divisional magistrate Rajesh Sharma said 58 bodies were found and at least 72 injured were in a government hospital. The toll is likely to rise.

Wails of people filled the air as friends and relatives frantically looked for their near and dear ones. Severed bodies, including of many children, were on the accident site hours after the incident with angry people not allowing authorities to remove them. Dismembered body parts laid strewn on the bloodsoaked ground. Many bodies could not be identified. People shouted slogans against local MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was the chief guest at the event. She later rushed to the hospital.

There was shock and disbelief as panic-stricken people recounted the horror. “I have lost my minor child. I want him back,” an inconsolable mother could be heard. “Several times we have been requesting the authorities and local leaders telling them to take up the issue with railway authorities to slow down the trains near this Phatak during Dussehra, but no one has listened,” a local said. Another said people could not hear the sound of the approaching train due to fire crackers.

The incident sent shock waves across the country. There was an outpouring of grief, with President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoling the loss of lives. Modi asked officials to provide immediate assistance. Congress chief Rahul Gandhi too asked the state government and party workers to provide immediate relief to the affected people. Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh announced a compensation of ₹5 lakh each to nearest kin of each of the deceased. He rushed to the spot to supervise rescue and relief operations. The CM also announced free treatment to all injured in the accident.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced all possible assistance to Punjab. “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 tweeted soon after the incident. The home minister said he has spoken to home secretary and DGP of Punjab regarding the accident. “Centre is ready to provide all possible assistance to the state at this hour of grief,” he said.

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