At least 60 people were killed and more than 70 injured on October 19 evening at Joda Phatak in Amritsar, when a crowd of Dusserah revellers that had spilled on to the railway track while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy were mowed down by a train.
Police said the train was coming from Jalandhar to Amritsar when the incident occurred. Over 500 people were watching ‘Ravana dahan’ at a ground near the track. As the effigy was put to fire amid loud noise of firecrackers people reportedly could not hear the sound of the oncoming train.
Amritsar police commissioner S.S. Srivastava said the death toll could mount. “We are still evacuating the injured from the train track,” he said.
There was a stampede as people rushed towards the track when crackers were burst in large numbers during the burning of the effigy. “The reports indicate the train crashed through the crowd on the track at that time”, said Raveen Thukral, Media Adviser to the Chief Minister.
Two trains arrived from the opposite direction at the same time giving little opportunity for the people to escape, officials said.
Meanwhile Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh said he was rushing to the accident site to “personally supervise relief & rescue,” while announcing a relief of ₹5 lakh to the kin of each deceased and free treatment for the injured in government as well as private hospitals. He also ordered an inquiry.
President, PM condole
President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives.
“Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching,” Mr. Modi tweeted.
“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,” he said.
“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,” Mr. Kovind said.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who is now in the U.S., said he has cancelled all his engagements there and will be immediately returning to India. “Shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic train incident that occurred in Amritsar. My heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. I pray for the injured to recover quickly,” he added in a tweet.
Mr. Singh said he was rushing to the accident site to “personally supervise relief & rescue,” while annoucing a relief of Rs. 5 lakh to kin of each deceased and free treatment for injured in government as well as private hospitals.
“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,” Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh promised all possible assistance to the State from the Central government, adding “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.”
Former Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal demanded an inquiry by a sitting judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. He said those responsible for the tragedy must be handed exemplary punishment.
( With PTI inputs)