At least 50 people are feared dead after being mowed down by a speeding train in Punjab's Amritsar. Several others, who got injured, were rushed to nearby hospitals. Authorities fear that the death toll may rise.
The incident occurred on Friday when people went to witness burning of Ravana effigy near Dhobi Ghat area of Amritsar. News agency ANI reported that a train ran into a burning effigy of Ravana.
"We have taken people to hospital and we are evacuating others. We are examining the situation and taking all necessary measures. The exact cause of the mishap is yet to be ascertained," a senior police official told mediapersons.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh Badal directed Home Secretary, Health Secretary and ADGP Law and Order to immediately rush to Amritsar. The Chief Minister will visit the site of the incident on Saturday.
"Shocked to hear of tragic rail accident in Amritsar. Have asked all government and private hospitals to stay open to help in this hour of grief. District authorities have been directed to take up relief and rescue operations on a war footing," he tweeted.
The people were reportedly mowed down by a local train coming to Amritsar from Jalandhar. Speaking to Zee News, eyewitnesses blamed the administration for not taking adequate precautionary measures.
Some of the eyewitnesses said that the event was organised by the Congress party and was attended by Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu's wife Navjot Kaur. They alleged that Navjot Kaur left the place immediately after the incident took place.
"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," eyewitnesses told news agency ANI.
The Ravana effigy was being burnt near the rail track when the incident took place.
Reacting to the incident, Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain said that he had been making attempts to gather all information about the incident, assuring that he would take all necessary action.
"As Dussehra celebration was taking place some incident had occurred and people started rushing towards closed gate number 27 while a DMU train number 74943 was passing the closed gate," said CPRO, Northern Railway, in a statement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief on the loss of lives. Taking to Twitter, he said, "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."
President Ram Nath Kovind offered condolences. He tweeted, "Shocked to hear about the tragedy on rail tracks in Amritsar, Punjab. Understand Indian Railways and local authorities are taking steps to help affected people. Heartfelt condolences to bereaved families."
Congress president Rahul Gandhi asked party workers to provide immediate relief at the accident site. He tweeted, "The train accident in Punjab in which over 50 people have died is shocking. I urge the state government & Congress workers to provide immediate relief at the accident site. My condolences to the families of those who have died. I pray that the injured make a speedy recovery."
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