A commuter train travelling at high speed struck a crowd of people seated on tracks in northern India on Friday and at least 50 were feared killed, Punjab state police and witnesses said.
“The people were sitting on and near the tracks on the outskirts of Amritsar watching the burning of effigies as part of the Dussehra festival when a commuter train ran over them,” a police officer told Reuters.
At least 60 people were admitted to hospital with injuries, the police officer in the control room said, after what he called a “freak accident” given that people did not hear the train approaching amid the din of festivities and fireworks.
Reuters partner ANI news agency reported that an eyewitness at the scene said the train that ran over people was travelling at a high speed.
Amarinder Singh, Punjab chief minister, said he was rushing to Amritsar to supervise relief and rescue operations. “District authorities have been mobilized on war footing,” Singh tweeted.
Local television stations showed images of angry and distraught locals including a weeping mother who had just lost a child in the tragedy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was extremely saddened by the train accident.
“The tragedy is heart-wrenching,” he 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.”
While accidents are relatively common on India’s sprawling rail network, Friday’s was among India’s deadliest in recent years.
In 2016, 146 people were killed when a train slid off railroad tracks in eastern India.