Railways claim Amritsar accident a case of 'Trespassing'

NC Network

At least 59 people were reported dead after a speeding train ran over a crowd which was standing on the railway track on Friday evening to see the burning of Ravan in Joda Phatak, Amritsar. 

The train was coming from Jalhandar and was going to its final destination Amritsar, which is nearly 2 Km away form the accident site. Around 300 people were gathered to watch The 'Ravana Dahan' at a ground adjacent to railway tracks.  

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh postponed his trip to Israel and visited the hospital on Saturday morning. He also ordered a strict inquiry after meeting the families of the dead and injured people. 

While talking to the media Singh said, "We are announcing a magisterial probe into the incident."

He also added that four weeks have been given to submit the report to find out who was at fault. The responsibility is given to the divisional commissioner of Jalandhar. 

A compensation of Rs 5 lakh each for the families of the deceased had already been announced by the state government. Besides, the government would bear the cost of medical treatments of the injured admitted to different hospitals. 

The CM also meet  senior officials and members of the crisis management group and took stock of the relief work. Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, Education Minister O P Soni, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar accompanied him. 

The chairman of the Railway Board Ashwani Lohani visited the accident site on Saturday morning and completely refused to take the responsibility of the tragedy as the railway authorities were not informed about the Dussehra event. He said, "It was a clear case of trespassing."

Locals argue that the event is taking place at the same spot for the last two decades, except for last year. 

Lohani said the Jalandhar-Amritsar Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) passenger train that ran over the crowd was running at its assigned speed and its driver had applied brakes to slow it down.

"Trains run at their assigned speed and people are not expected to go on the tracks. There was no intimation to the railways regarding this (Dussehra) event adjoining the railway track, Lohani said.  

He added that  the accident site falls under the "mid-section of the two stations" where the trains run at their "assigned speed".

When asked about the responsibility of the driver, Lohani said, "Our initial report suggests that the loco-pilot applied the brakes and the speed came down from 90 kmph to around 60-65 kmph. We are still looking at the speedometer charts."

Following the accident, the railways cancelled 37 trains, diverted 16, short terminated 12 and short originated six trains on the route. 40 out of the 59 people killed have been identified and the bodies of 36 of were cremated, officials said.

The bodies of 4 other persons, who were from Uttar Pradesh, have been sent to their home towns by the district administration. At a ground Shitla Mata Temple Amritsar in the presence of officials of the state government and family members of the deceased 36 bodies were cremated in batches.

According to officials, the post-mortem examination on 29 bodies has been done. The injured have been admitted to seven hospitals.

Twitter says..

@Narendra Modi: 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.

@Amit Shah: I am pained beyond words to learn about the tragic train accident in Amritsar. I have spoken to the local BJP unit and asked our karyakartas to join the rescue operation. My deepest condolences with those who have lost their loved ones. I pray for early recovery of those injured.

@Arvind Kejriwal: Extremely sad news coming about a major train accident near Amritsar

I appeal to all our volunteers in the area to help authorities in the relief work and provide whatever help we can in this moment of crisis.

@Virat Kohli: My prayers are with the families of those affected by the terrible train accident in Amritsar yesterday.

@President Of India: Shocked to hear about the tragedy on rail tracks in Amritsar, Punjab. Understand Indian Railways and local authorities are taking steps to help affected people. Heartfelt condolences to bereaved families #PresidentKovind

@Amitabh Bachchan: Amritsar के हादसे ने हम सब को अत्यंत दुखी कर दिया है ! इस दुर्घटना ने हमें स्तब्ध कर दिया है ! हमारी प्रार्थनाएँ , हमारा शोक उन परिवारों के प्रति जिन्होंने अपने प्रिय निकट संबंदियों को दुर्भाग्य वश खो दिया हो ।।

@Rahul Gandhi: The train accident in Punjab in which over 50 people have died is shocking. I urge the state government & Congress workers to provide immediate relief at the accident site. My condolences to the families of those who have died. I pray that the injured make a speedy recovery.
@Sachin Tendulkar: Heartbroken for all the victims of the #AmritsarTrainAccident. Nothing can replace the souls lost. 😔 Praying for the injured and all the families. 🙏

with inputs from agencies

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