Death toll in India train tragedy reaches 60


Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha Saturday ruled out any punitive action against the driver of the train that mowed down Dussehra revellers in Amritsar, saying there was no negligence on the part of the national transporter and also advised people not to organise such events near tracks.

Sporadic protests broke out near the accident site, with scores of protesters calling for action against the local authorities and the train driver who was questioned by police on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Amritsar police said though they had given a "no objection" certificate for the Dussehra celebrations, the organisers did not take permission from the municipal corporation and the pollution department.

Punjab Police personnel stood guard on both sides of the railway tracks near Joda Phatak (railway gate) area of Amritsar to prevent any protesters from getting near the tracks. The railways also diverted other trains to Tarn Taran and Beas while others were terminated at Jalandhar, said unidentified railway officials.

A speeding train ran over a crowd watching fireworks during a religious festival in northern India on Friday evening, killing more than 50 people and injuring dozens more, police said.

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

Punjab government ordered state mourning.

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Giving details, the railways said 10 mail/express trains and 27 passenger trains were cancelled.

A railways official said the driver of the train told authorities he had applied brakes and honked on sighting the crowd near the tracks, but was not able to stop the train on time. "Even the local administration should not allow such functions", Sinha said, adding "The driver could not see the crowd standing on the tracks because of the curve", he added.

"Railways can not be blamed". Chairman of the Railway Board Ashwani Lohani said in a statement that the accident occurred at a midsection between the Amritsar and Manawala stations and not at a level crossing. In the CCTV footage, Sourabh Madan Mithu, the person who organised the whole event can be seen escaping in an SUV.

Railway minister Piyush Goyal returned early from a trip to the United States to go to Amritsar on Saturday. SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal has said that an independent agency should conduct an inquiry into Amritsar train tragedy that claimed lives of 59 people.

Ordering the inquiry, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh described the incident as "absolutely tragic".

Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of Union Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was the chief guest at the event.

The disaster happened after people gathered on train tracks in Amritsar to watch a fireworks display, held to mark a Hindu festival. "Near the accident site, there is a railway barrier which is manned by a gateman".