At least 61 killed in India train disaster

NEW DELHI – At least 61 people were killed and over 70 others injured in northern Indian state of Punjab after a train rammed into a crowd watching festivities of a Hindu festival on the railway tracks, officials said Saturday.

The incident took place Friday evening at 6:45 p.m. local time at Jaura Phatak in Amritsar, the Sikh holy city of Punjab.

Seventy-two others have been admitted to a hospital with injuries.

Dussehra is a Hindu festival marking the triumph of good over evil. Effigies are burnt and fireworks are set off as part of the festival in north India.

The local government has describing the incident as tragic and ordered an inquiry into the accident.

Following the accident, the authorities rushed police and disaster management teams to the spot to carry out rescue work. Reports said around 700 people were witnessing the effigy burning and over 300 were on the tracks.

The state of Punjab is observing a day of mourning today (Saturday) in wake of the incident.

“The state will remain in mourning today in view of Amritsar train mishap. All offices and educational institutions will remain closed,” a government spokesman quoted state’s Chief Minister Amarinder Singh as having said.

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

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have expressed grief over the tragedy.

“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,” Modi said in a statement.

Indian Railway Minister Piyush Goyal also expressed grief over the deaths and said his ministry officials were on the spot assisting in rescue and relief measures.

“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,” the minister said. “Railways is conducting immediate relief and rescue operations.”

There are fears that the death toll is likely to go up further.

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