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High-speed train kills 35 pilgrims

At least 35 people were killed when a train ran over Hindu pilgrims crossing a railway track in eastern India.

An angry mob then beat the train driver severely and set fire to the coaches in retaliation, officials said.

The pilgrims were crossing the tracks at the station in Dhamara Ghat, a small town in Bihar state, when they were struck by the Rajya Rani Express train, said Dinesh Chandra Yadav, a local member of parliament. Several other people were injured.

PN Rai, a railway official in Bihar, said 35 people died when the train, running at high speed, hit people on the track.

Arunendra Kumar, a senior railway official, said the train was not supposed to stop at Dhamara Ghat and had been given clearance to pass through the station. However, some pilgrims waited on the tracks thinking they could stop the train, he said.

The train stopped a few hundred yards beyond the spot where it hit the pilgrims. Angry mobs then pulled the train driver out and beat him. Mr Yadav said the driver died, but Mr Kumar said the driver was in hospital in a critical condition.

The mob then got all the passengers out of the train and set some coaches on fire. Groups of young men also smashed the windows of two other trains that were in the station.

Monday is the last day of month-long prayer ceremonies at the Katyayani temple near Dhamara Ghat, a popular Hindu pilgrimage site. The pilgrims were returning from offering morning prayers.

Kumar Ashutosh, a passenger on the train, said that within a few seconds of hitting people on the track, the driver slammed on the emergency brakes and the train ground to a halt.

"Soon, groups of people began running toward the engine. They asked us to get down from the train. Some of them pulled out the driver and his assistant and began beating them," said Mr Ashutosh, who walked six miles from the accident site to the nearby Saharsa station.

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