Amritsar train accident LATEST updates: Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has announced Rs 5 lakh ex gratia to the kin of those who were killed in the accident. The chief minister also promised free medical treatment for all injured and an additional aide of Rs 50,000 for those who would need prolonged treatment for their injuries.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has said that the state government has ordered a magisterial probe into the mishap. The chief minister has said that he has sought the report within four weeks. Singh refused to blame either the railways or the administration, and added that he would not like to prejudge the findings of the enquiry committee
MoS Railways, Manoj Sinha said that the Amritsar train accident was the most unfortunate tragedy. Answering a question about whether the liability lies with the railways, Sinha said that the site of the accident was outside the crossing guard's and motorman's range of vision, because the tracks curved just ahead of the railway crossing.
He said that the mtormen are briefed in advance about when to slow down the train, what speed to drive at and when to blow the horn. The driver was only doing his duty.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has arrived in Amaritser. Singh is being being briefed by the Crisis Management Group on relief and rehabilitation measures taken so far in the massive train tragedy that killed at least 59 people. He is scheduled to visit the Guru Teg Bahadur Singh hospital to mmet the victims shortly.
Defending his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was accused of leaving the accident site without bothering about the victims, the state culture minister said she was attending to patients at the hospital when allegations were being levelled against her.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh reaches Amritsar. Arjun Sharma/ 101Reporters
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh is scheduled to visit Guru Nanak Dev hospital in Amritsar to meet the injured in the tragic accident.
Speaking to CNN-News18, Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani said that the Indian Railways will not be launching a probe into the accident, "as it is not an accident as such, this is trespassing on railway tracks.
According to reports, Police Commissioner Amritsar SS Srivastava said that the death toll is at 58, and at least 60 more people have been injured in the train accident.
At least 61 people were killed and 72 injured on Friday evening after a crowd of Dussehra revellers that had spilled on to railway tracks while watching burning of Ravana effigy was run over by a train near Amritsar, officials said.
The train was going from Jalandhar to Amritsar when the incident occurred at Joda Phatak where at least 300 people were watching 'Ravana dahan' at a ground adjacent to the tracks.
Sub Divisional Magistrate Amritsar (I) Rajesh Sharma said 58 people have died and at least 72 injured have been admitted to Amritsar hospital.
However, Raveen Thukral, media adviser to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, put the number of dead at 40, adding the toll could rise.
As the effigy was lit and the fireworks went off, a section of the crowd started retreating towards the tracks where a large number of people were already standing to watch the event, officials said.
However, two trains arrived from the opposite direction at the same time giving little opportunity to people to escape, they said.
Several people were mowed down by one of the trains, they said.
Wails and cries of people filled the air as friends and relatives frantically looked for their near and dear ones. Severed bodies, including of many children, were still lying on the accident site hours after the incident with angry people not allowing authorities to remove them.
It was a heart rending sight as dismembered body parts lay strewn on the blood-soaked ground. Many bodies could not be identified.
People shouted slogans against local MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was present as chief guest during the event. She later said she rushed to the hospital immediately after the incident.
She said the railways should have ensured that trains slow down near that section of the track during Dussehra celebrations.
"Every year, Dussehra celebrations take place there," she said, adding that she had left the place before the incident took place.
There was shock and disbelief as panic-stricken people recounted the horror.
"I have lost my minor child. I want him back," an inconsolable mother could be heard.
"Several times we have been requesting the authorities and local leaders telling them to take up the issue with railway authorities to slow down the trains near this Phatak during Dussehra, but no one has listened," a local said.
Another said people could not hear the sound of the approaching train due to bursting of fire-crackers.
Amritsar Police Commissioner SS Srivastava said there was a great rush because of the Dussehra celebrations, adding necessary action as per law would be taken.
A state mourning has been announced in Punjab on Saturday.
Amarinder Singh has ordered an inquiry into the incident.
"I am at the moment not aware of the reasons for this Ravana effigy being built next to a railway station. But the administration will look at it and we will check it when I go there tomorrow," he said.
Singh, who was scheduled to leave for Israel this evening, has postponed his trip and will fly to Amritsar Saturday morning.
He announced compensation of Rs five lakh each to the kin of the deceased.
He also directed the Chief Secretary to deploy all the necessary administrative officials to ensure that the injured are immediately shifted to hospitals across Amritsar. All private hospitals have also been asked to stay open, along with government hospitals, to provide urgent free treatment and care to the injured.
Additional police forces, led by the DGP, have been rushed to the spot to control the situation.
The incident sent shock waves across the country. There was an outpouring of grief with President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoling the loss of lives.
Modi announced Rs 2 lakh compensation for the family of the dead and Rs 50,000 for the injured. He also directed officials to provide immediate assistance.
"Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. 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," 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," Kovind said.
Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha, Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani and Northern Railway general manager Vishwesh Chaube are rushing to the spot while Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said immediate relief and rescue operations are being conducted.
With inputs from PTI