Amritsar – : Over 60 people were killed in Punjab’s Amritsar on Friday after a speeding train mowed down people gathered for Dussehra celebrations. The incident was reported at Joda Phatak near Choura Bazar area of the city. Huge crowd had gathered on the railway tracks to witness the Ravan effigy in flames. The crowd reportedly could not hear the hooting of the train due to the explosion of crackers.
The train going from Jalandhar to Amritsar mowed down at least 61 revellers within seconds as it zipped though them, crushing and blowing away anybody who came in its way. As per the reports, nearly 300 people were there at a ground adjacent to the tracks at the time of the incident.
The accident scenes were reminiscent of ones witnessed during the Partition of the country when millions of people lost their lives in violence, an eyewitness said.
“The driver didn’t blow the horn,” alleged one of the witnesses.
Helpline numbers were issued by the railways following the incident. These numbers – 01832223171 and 01832564485 can be reached for information on those killed/injured. Telephone numbers at Manawala station are 0183-2440024, 0183-2402927 and Ferozpur’s helpline number is 01632-1072.
State mourning on Saturday has been declared by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, as he has ordered for closure of all offices and educational institutes for the day.
“Shocked to hear of tragic rail accident in Amritsar. Have asked all govt 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,” tweeted the chief minister as he expressed grief over the incident.
Singh also announced Rs 5 lakh compensation for the kin of each deceased and free treatment for the injured.
The incident drew reactions from leaders and politicians across the country as condolences for the deceased poured in.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed extreme sadness over the incident and prayed for the quick recovery of the injured.
“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,” tweeted the prime minister.
Prime Minister Modi also approved Rs 2 lakhs for the family of those deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured in the Amritsar train accident.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh took to twitter and said “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.”
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the incident appears to be a tragedy as per initial reports.
“An unfortunate tragedy has taken place. My heart goes out to all those who have lost their lives and injured in this incident which from the initial reports appears to be a tragedy that could have been avoided,” said the finance minister.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi urged his party workers to provide immediate relief at the accident site.
“The train accident in Punjab in which over 50 people have died is shocking. I urge the state govt and Congress workers to provide immediate relief at the accident site. My condolences to the families of those who have died and pray that the injured make a speedy recovery,” the Congress chief said.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal cancelled all his engagements in the US hours after the incident and confirmed his immediate return to India.
“May God give strength to the bereaved and injured. Railways is proving all possible assistance at the site. I have cancelled all engagements in USA and immediately returning back to India,” Goyal tweeted.
An image captured on Google Earth shows the area where the accident occurred
Emergency medical officer at Amritsar’s Civil Hospital confirmed more than 60 people have receieved treatment as of yet.
Meanwhile, all train services on Jalandhar-Amritsar route remained suspended three hours after the incident, railway official said. While some trains are being diverted, many are stationed near Jalandhar, he added.
According to local officials, the death toll in the incident could rise drastically.