A passenger express slammed into a stationary freight train in northern India killing at least nine people on Monday, as rescuers worked frantically to free those trapped inside mangled carriages, officials said.
The express was travelling to Gorakhpur city in northern Uttar Pradesh state when it collided with the stationary train at a local station mid-morning, leaving scores of passengers injured, officials said.
Six carriages were derailed in the accident and television footage showed mangled metal and broken glass strewn over the tracks. Coaches were seen crashed and turned on their sides in nearby bushland as crowds of locals gathered.
“Nine deaths are confirmed and 95 people have been injured and they’ve been admitted to the hospitals,” district magistrate Bharat Lal Rai told AFP from the crash site.
Rescue workers and medical teams were racing to cut open the last remaining carriages to free those still trapped and treat the injured, but their efforts were hampered by a lack of specialist equipment.
“We have a coach where we can see three people are trapped inside. At least one of them looks alive and the other two haven’t shown any movement,” local administrator Arvind Diwedi said at the scene.
“The rescue team that is here doesn’t have gas cutters and it is taking very long to cut open the coach. We have sought these cutters but it could still take around 40 minutes to get them,” he told AFP.
Local media put the number of dead as high as 40, but at least three officials at the scene told AFP that the toll was fewer than 10.
The Gorakhdham Express travelling from Hisar city to Gorakhpur smashed into the freight train at Chureb station in Khalilabad, 700 kilometres (430 miles) east of New Delhi.
“We are focusing on rescue and relief at the moment. It’s going on in a war footing to ensure minimum casualties,” Indian Railways spokesman Anil Kumar Saxena told AFP in New Delhi.
– Frequent deadly accidents –
Narendra Modi, who was preparing to be sworn in as India’s new prime minister later Monday, expressed his sadness at the loss of life.
“My condolences to families of those who lost their lives in the Gorakhdham express tragedy. Prayers with the injured,” Modi said on his official Twitter account.
“Spoke to the Cabinet Secretary. Asked him to take an overview of the situation & ensure timely assistance to those injured,” he said.
Indian Railways ordered an investigation into the crash and compensation of 100,000 rupees ($1,700) for the families of those killed and 50,000 rupees for those passengers with serious injuries.
India’s railway network, one of the world’s largest, is still the main form of long-distance travel in the vast country. But the network is poorly funded and deadly accidents are frequent.
In January, a fire tore through a train full of sleeping passengers outside Mumbai, killing nine people and forcing survivors to break open doors to escape. Weeks earlier, a fire on board a train in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh killed 26 people.
Last August, a high-speed train ploughed into a crowd of Hindu pilgrims as they tried to cross tracks in eastern Bihar state, killing 37.
In 2012, a government report said almost 15,000 people were killed every year on India’s railways, describing the deaths as an annual “massacre” due mainly to poor safety standards.