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115 dead and 150 injured as train derails in northern India

Published 20/11/2016

Scores of people were injured in the derailment
Scores of people were injured in the derailment

At least 115 people were killed and about 150 injured, 72 of them seriously, when an overnight passenger train derailed in northern India.

Rescue workers had to use cutting torches to pull people out of the mangled coaches after the incident near Kanpur.

The death toll was expected to rise further because workers had yet to gain access to one of the worst-damaged of the 14 coaches that came off the track, said police director general Daljeet Chaudhary.

The train derailed at around 3.10am on Sunday, jolting awake passengers after they had settled in for the long trip. Survivors and bodies were retrieved from mangled coaches that had fallen on their side.

Ramchandra Tewari, a passenger who suffered a head injury, said he was asleep when he was suddenly flung to the floor of his coach.

"There was a loud sound like an earthquake. I fell from my berth and a lot of luggage fell over me," said Mr Tewari from his hospital bed in the city of Kanpur.

"I thought I was dead, and then I passed out."

Another passenger, Satish Kumar, said the train was travelling at normal speed when it stopped suddenly.

"It restarted, and then we heard a crash," said Mr Kumar, whose coach remained standing on the track.

"When we came out of the train, we saw a few coaches had derailed."

The cause of the derailment was not immediately clear.

Accidents are relatively common on India's sprawling rail network, which is the world's third largest but lacks modern signaling and communication systems.

Most accidents are blamed on poor maintenance and human error.

The impact of the derailment was so strong that one of the coaches landed on top of another, crushing the one below, said Brigadier Anurag Chibber, heading the army's rescue team.

"We fear there could be many more dead in the lower coach," he said, adding that it was unclear how many people were in the coach.

Javeed Ahmad, the police chief of Uttar Pradesh state, where the derailment took place, said 115 bodies had been recovered from the wreckage.

The derailment happened near the village of Pukhrayan, outside Kanpur, an industrial city about 250 miles south-east of New Delhi.

The Patna-Indore Express train, linking the central Indian city of Indore to the city of Patna to its north-east, completes its 845-mile journey in 27 hours.

Rescue workers, soldiers and members of India's disaster management force reached Pukhrayan within an hour of the incident and began pulling out people trapped in the overturned coaches.

While rescuers used cutting torches to open the derailed cars, cranes were deployed to lift the coaches from the tracks.

Rescuers moved cautiously because some of the coaches were tilted precariously, and there was a danger that they could topple over, possibly injuring those trapped inside.

Medical teams provided first aid near the site, while the more seriously injured were moved to hospitals in Kanpur, said Mr Chaudhary.

Anxious relatives of passengers searched for their family members among the injured and the dead at hospitals in Kanpur.

Prime minister Narendra Modi expressed his concern over the derailment.

"Anguished beyond words on the loss of lives due to the derailing of the Patna-Indore express. My thoughts are with the bereaved families," said Mr Modi on his Twitter account.

Kanpur is a major railway junction, and hundreds of trains pass through the city every day.

After the derailment, several trains using the line were diverted to other routes, and r ail authorities have ordered an investigation into the incident.

In 2012, an Indian government report said about 15,000 people are killed every year in train accidents in the country, caused mainly by outdated equipment and overstretched staff.

The country's worst railway accident occurred in 1981, when a passenger train fell into the Baghmati River in northern India, killing nearly 800 people.

Mr Modi has pledged to invest 137 billion dollars (£111 billion) over the next five years to modernize India's railway network, which is used by around 23 million passengers a day.

AP

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