Train mows down crowd at India festival, at least 50 dead

Glen Norman
October 22, 2018

New Delhi/Amritsar, Oct 21 Locals on Sunday came out hard against the statement of the driver who has said that the Dussehra revellers at the spot of the accident had pelted stones at the train.

The funerals of some victims were held Saturday and the accident brought widespread demands for tough action by authorities.

Police said several local residents are sitting on the railway tracks and do not want to leave.

The Punjab police along with commandoes were deployed to manage the crowd.

The district administration has said out of the 60 people mowed down by the speeding Jalandhar-Amritsar train on Friday, 40 have been identified.

Numerous victims were dismembered beyond recognition and police said it would take several days to complete the identification of the dead.

The local government has announced a relief of around 6,807 USA dollars to family of each deceased and announced free medical treatment to the injured in hospitals.

Amritsar police said they had given a "no-objection" certificate for the event but told the organisers they must take permission from the civic body and the pollution department, which they didn't.

The driver, Arvind Kumar, in a statement to the Railways administration said he had applied the emergency breaks, but since a large group of people started pelting stones on the train, he chose to proceed, The Indian Express reported on Sunday. No inquiry has been ordered against the driver of the train either, and the Railways continue to maintain that the spectators were trespassing on the tracks.

According to reports the burning of the effigy was delayed due to the late arrival of the chief guest of the event, Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of the Amritsar East MLA and cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu.

Besides 59 confirmed deaths, at least 74 were hurt in the incident and had to be transported to hospitals in Amritsar.

Minister of state for railways Manoj Sinha, who visited the accident site near Joda Phatak, said, "The incident was not railways' fault".

Singh declared a state of mourning and said all offices and educational institutions across the state would remain closed on Saturday. "All we could hear around us was people screaming and crying", Paramjeet Singh, another onlooker, said.

"Dussehra organizers generally tell the guards at the crossing to take care of the trains by closing the gates after 5-10 minutes-enough time for organizers to ask the public to clear the tracks before the train passes".

The former deputy chief minister also demanded action against organisers of the function, saying they were responsible for making the people stand on the railway track.

Following the accident, a large number of people rushed to the site and shouted at railway officials for not taking precautions.

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