13 children killed after train rams into school van at railway crossing in UP’s Kushinagar
The accident occurred on Thursday morning when the bus was passing an unmanned railway crossing. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered a probe.lucknow Updated: Apr 26, 2018 23:15 IST
At least 13 schoolchildren were killed and eight others injured when a speeding passenger train crashed into a van at an unmanned railway crossing in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar district early on Thursday, officials said. The impact of the collision was so strong that the van, carrying 20 students of Divine Mission School, was crushed instantly and many children died on the spot.
The driver, identified as Neyaz Ahmed, 22, allegedly had earphones plugged in while driving and ignored warnings by the ‘gate mitra’ at the crossing, officials said. ‘Gate mitras’ are volunteers posted at unmanned level crossings to alert motorists of train traffic. A survivor said the driver was busy talking on his mobile phone and didn’t hear children screaming to him that a train was approaching.
The train, 55075 Down, was on its way from Siwan to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh when the accident occurred. Four children injured in the accident were reported to be in a critical state in hospital.
“The accident occurred at 7 am at an unmanned level crossing near Dudhi railway station which falls under the Banaras division. Prima facie the fault appears to be of the van driver who was probably getting late in reaching the school and, therefore, didn’t stop despite warning by our ‘gate mitra’, who repeatedly asked him to stop. The train driver too blew the whistle,” said Sanjay Yadav, chief public relations officer, North-Eastern Railway. “All except one child have suffered head injuries and multiple fractures. Three, including the driver, have been kept on ventilator,” said BRD Medical College principal, Dr Ganesh Kumar.
Following the accident, Indian Railways said all unmanned level crossings would be eliminated by 2022. President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal expressed their grief over the accident. The railway minister announced an ex-gratia payment of of Rs 2 lakh each to the kin of the victims, Rs 1 lakh to those who were critically injured and Rs 50,000 to those with minor injuries.
“I am deeply anguished and pained by the loss of lives of young school children at an unmanned level crossing in Kushinagar. My thoughts are with families of the deceased and I pray for the early recovery of the injured,” Goyal said in a statement, adding that he had ordered a senior-level enquiry.
Chief minister Yogi Adityanath rushed to the accident site, about 100km away from Gorakhpur, and said the driver of the van appeared to have been at fault.
“He is said to have had earphones on... all the facts will be known in the inquiry headed by the commissioner of Gorakhpur,” he said after visiting the injured.
The CM faced protests on his visit to Kushinagar. “This is a sad incident. There should be no drama (‘nautanki’) on this,” he told the protesters.
Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani said that in the long term, the solution was the replacement of all unmanned crossings in the railway network with bridges or tunnels for roads.
“We are working on it, but it will take time,” he said.
Lohani said no step the national carrier to avoid accidents can be foolproof in the face of negligence and urged the people to be careful in crossing railway tracks. “We are trying to eliminate UMLCs (unmanned level crossings) by March 31, 2020,” he said.
The officer also said the national transporter has been aggressively doing away with UMLCs —1,565 were eliminated in 2017-18 and the target is to remove 1,600 in 2018-19.
The gradual elimination of unmanned leveI crossings has resulted in a steady decrease in the number of accidents at such locations — from 50 in 2014-2015 to 29 in 2015-2016, to 20 in 2016-2017, 10 in 2017-2018 and one so far this year.
Across the railway network, 5,792 such crossings still existed as of 31 March, he said.
This is the second accident in India this month involving schoolchildren.
Twenty-three children were among 30 killed when a private school bus ferrying them home veered off the road and plunged into a 200-feet-deep gorge in Malakwal in Nurpur in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh on April 9.
(With HTC inputs from New Delhi)