At least 58 killed as train hits crowd standing on track celebrating Dussehra in Amritsar

Officials said as the effigy of Ravana was lit and fireworks went off, the crowd started retreating towards the railway tracks. Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani and Northern Railway general manager Vishwesh Chaube are rushing to the spot, officials said. Railways releases helpline numbers for Amritsar train tragedy.

AMRITSAR: At least 58 people were killed as a train in Amritsar’s Joda Phatak on Friday ran into a crowd watching the burning of an effigy of Ravan, said Sub-divisional Magistrate Rajesh Sharma. Around 72 injured have been admitted to a government hospital, Sharma said.

Officials fear that the toll may go up. “Exact figure is not known but it is definitely more than 50 to 60,” Amritsar Police Commissioner SS Srivastava told. “We are still evacuating people.”

Dussehra celebrations were being held along railway tracks when the accident took place. The train was en route to Amritsar from Jalandhar.

At least 300 people were at the spot watching the celebrations. Officials said as the effigy was lit and fireworks went off, the crowd started moving towards the railway tracks. Two trains arrived from the opposite direction at the same time giving the people standing on the tracks little time to escape, PTI reported, quoting officials.

Union Minister of State for Railways Manoj Singh said people standing near the railway track did not hear the sound of the approaching train as firecrackers were bursting at the same time.

The Indian Railways issued helpline numbers in wake of the accident: 0183-2223171 and 0183-2564485. Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal said he has cancelled all engagements in the United States and is immediately returning back to India. “May God give strength to the bereaved and injured,” he said on Twitter. “Railways is proving all possible assistance at the site.”

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has asked home secretary, health secretary and additional director general of police (law and order) to rush to Amritsar. The chief minister set up arisis management group to monitor the relief and rehabilitation efforts. The group is led by Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, and has Revenue Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, Technical Education Minister Charanjit S Channi as members. The state government declared a two-day mourning in Punjab starting Saturday. All offices and educational institutions will remain closed.

Singh said he was rushing to Amritsar to personally supervise relief and rescue operations. “My government will give Rs 5 lakh to kin of each deceased and free treatment to injured in government and private hospitals,” he said on Twitter. “District authorities have been mobilised on war footing.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences. “Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar,” he said on Twitter. “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.”

The prime minister approved Rs 2 lakh for the family of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured in the accident.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he was “pained beyond words” at the loss of lives in the tragedy. “I spoke to home secretary of Punjab and DGP of the state regarding the train accident in Amritsar,” Singh said on Twitter. “They are rushing to the spot. Centre is ready to provide all possible assistance to the state at this hour of grief.”

Railways Friday rushed its top officials to Amritsar as several Dussehra revellers were run over by a passing train, while Union minister Piyush Goyal said immediate relief and rescue operations are being conducted.

Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani and Northern Railway general manager Vishwesh Chaube are rushing to the spot, officials said.

Railways releases helpline numbers for Amritsar train tragedy

The Indian Railways has issued helpline numbers for the Amritsar train accident.  The helpline telephone numbers are:

Manawala station

Railways – 73325
BSNL – 0183-2440024

Power Cabin ASR

Railways – 72820
BSNL – 0183-2402927

Two other numbers provided

Vijay Sahota, SSE – 7986897301
Vijay Patel, SSE – 7973657316.

Several people were killed after a train ran into crowds at Joda Phatak crossing in Amritsar. The number of dead and injured is still not clear but different sources quoted different casualty figures ranging between 30 and 60 dead.

A large number of people had gathered to watch the Ravana burning near Joda Phatak crossing. When the effigy caught fire, they ran helter-skelter in a near-stampede.

Many of them ran towards the railway tracks next to the ground not knowing a train coming from Pathankot was heading towards them at a high speed. The smoke from the crackers and effigy burning had brought down visibility as well.

Before the train drivers could react, several people came under the wheels.

Police couldn’t give details about the number of people crushed in the accident. Several people were taken to hospitals nearby.