As many as 120 people were killed and more than 200 injured early Sunday when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express train flew off the rails in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh, police said.
The toll in one of India’s worst train accidents in six years was expected to rise as bodies were feared trapped in mangled coaches, railway and police officials said about the derailment that took place at 3.10am near Pukhrayan, about 100km from Kanpur.
“(So far) 116 bodies have been recovered; four dead bodies are still trapped inside a bogie,” said Kanpur Dehat police superintendent.
Seventy-six people were seriously injured while 150 suffered minor injuries. Hospitals were on an alert and more than 30 ambulances pressed into service, IG (Kanpur range) Zaki Ahmad said.
Volunteers and railway police were working to pull out passengers from coaches that fell on the side. Most of the passengers were sleeping at the time of the accident.
It was not immediately clear what caused the coaches to derail but sources said the nature and timing indicated that the accident could have been caused by a rail fracture .
Cracks in rails have been a cause of concern for the Indian Railways, the world’s fourth largest train system that is struggling with rickety British-era infrastructure. Indian trains ferries more than 20 million people each day.
Minister of state for railways Rajen Gohain said a fault in the tracks could have led to the derailment. “We haven’t seen an incident like this in Indian Railways for a long time because we have taken a lot of safety measures… There must be a fault in the track as 14 bogeys have derailed and this happened despite regular checking of the tracks,” he said.
The train was travelling from Indore in Madhya Pradesh to Patna in Bihar.
Teams of the national disaster response force and army jawans were rushed to the spot and were helping in relief and rescue. A green corridor was created for the quick movement of ambulances.
The express train, which runs twice in the week, was to reach Patna at 4.40pm. Anxious relatives who rushed to the Patna station complained of lack of information.
Prayers with those injured in the tragic train accident. I've spoken to @sureshpprabhu, who is personally monitoring the situation closely.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 20, 2016
“The railways do not have any information here. They have just put up the reservation chart and are awaiting information from Kanpur,” said Satyadev Pathak. His father Ram Krishna Pathak boarded the train at Indore.
“I woke up suddenly around 3.10am and felt a tremor. The train came to a screeching halt. All of a sudden, I was crushed under a crowd of people… everyone was screaming for help,” Yaqoob Ahmed, said at Kanpur’s UHM hospital.
The S2 coach of the train was severely damaged. Four AC coaches, too, were derailed.
“Anguished beyond words on loss of lives due to the derailing of Patna-Indore express. My thoughts are with the bereaved families,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
He also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured.
Kendra sarkaar ki taraf se isski jaanch hogi: PM Narendra Modi on Kanpur train derailment pic.twitter.com/PJ9XDup0kR— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) November 20, 2016
Rail minister Suresh Prabhu, who ordered a probe and promised strictest possible action against those responsible for the accident, was rushing to the site.
His ministry announced a compensation of Rs 3.5 lakh for the families of the dead and Rs 50,000 for the injured. from Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav directed his top police official to monitor the relief effort, and also announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of those who lost their lives and Rs 50,000 to the seriously injured.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, addressing the ‘CII Agro Tech 2016’ as the guest of honour in Chandigarh, condoled with the families of the victims of the tragedy.
“Let me start by expressing my heartfelt and deepest condolences on the tragic train accident that happened today. I would like to convey to all the families who lost their dears condolences to say how sorry we are,” said Rivlin.
Several trains on the Jhansi-Kanpur route were either diverted or cancelled. Buses were pressed into service to help passengers complete their journey, northern central railways spokesperson Vijay Kumar said.
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(With inputs from agencies)