Amritsar train disaster

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Amritsar train incident
Date19 October 2018
Time~18:45 IST (UTC+05:30)
LocationAmritsar, Punjab
Coordinates31°37′51″N 74°53′50″E / 31.63083°N 74.89722°E / 31.63083; 74.89722Coordinates: 31°37′51″N 74°53′50″E / 31.63083°N 74.89722°E / 31.63083; 74.89722[1]
CountryIndia
OperatorIndian Railways: Northern Railway
CauseTrespassing
Statistics
DeathsAt least 59
InjuriesAt least 100

An Indian Railways passenger train crashed into a crowd of people in the eastern outskirts of Amritsar, Punjab, on 19 October 2018. The crowd had gathered to watch celebrations for the Hindu festival of Dussehra and were standing on the tracks. The accident occurred in the early evening, killing at least 59 people[2] and injuring an additional 100.[3]

Incident[edit]

External video
Footage of Amritsar Train Accident / The Quint, ANI

According to local police and news media, the spectators were standing and sitting on or near the tracks in the Joda Phatak[a] area in the outskirts of Amritsar. The spectators were watching the burning of an effigy of demon Ravana as part of the Dussehra festival, when a commuter train ran into the crowd.[6] The train was described as a diesel multiple unit (DMU) local passenger train travelling westbound from Jalandhar station to Amritsar. Witnesses claimed that another train, the Amritsar–Howrah Mail service, had passed in the opposite direction moments earlier,[7] and this was later confirmed by the gateman in charge of the junction.[8]

Several witnesses claimed that the train did not blow its horn when it got close to the crowds of spectators.[9] The driver said that he both honked and applied the emergency brakes but did not come to a complete halt because the crowd had begun to pelt the train with stones.[10]

Local Congress politician Navjot Kaur Sidhu, the wife of the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Amritsar East, was the guest of honour at the event. She said she had left the site shortly before the accident occurred but that she returned as soon as she heard about it.[11] Sidhu also said that the celebration was held there every year and that the railway authorities were alerted in advance of the need to moderate their speed.[12]

Victims[edit]

An official told reporters that elected officials confirmed that at least 59 people were killed in the accident. By the evening of 19 October, 50 bodies had been discovered and at least 50 people had been admitted to a nearby hospital while the other nine bodies were found the next day.[13] Due to the force of the train's impact, many victims were dismembered or mutilated beyond recognition, which delayed the body identification.[14]

A local official said that most of the victims were migrant workers and their families from the states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar who lived in the area.[15] Punjab Chief Minister Singh visited some of the survivors and family members of the dead at a local hospital, on 20 October. During his visit two women met with him who had reportedly lost their entire families, including children, husbands and even in-laws.[16]

The majority of those identified were cremated at the Shitla Mata Temple in Amritsar, while a few others were sent back to their hometowns.[17][18] Allegations were reported to the local media, that after the accident some of the crowd stole valuables of the victims and survivors; family members also reported that only the bodies of their relatives were returned but not their effects.[19]

Response[edit]

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced compensation of 5 lakh (US$7,000) for the family of each of those killed, and free treatment for the injured. There was no immediate decision about any compensation from the railways. The central government also announced a compensation of 2 lakh (US$2,800) for the family of each of the dead and 50,000 (US$700) for the injured.[20] The state announced a day of mourning in honor of the victims, and Singh ordered an inquiry into how the accident had occurred.[13]

On 23 October, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Minister for Local Government, Tourism and Cultural Affairs in the Punjab State Government[21] and husband of Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was the guest of honour at the festival, announced that he and his wife would adopt all the children who lost parents in the accident, covering their education and all other expenses, and that women who lost their husbands would also be extended all required financial help.[22]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ramnath Kovind[23] offered condolences to the families of the dead and hopes that the injured would recover quickly.[6] Video footage of the incident seemed to show several mobile phones filming after the accident, causing the former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to criticise the reaction of the crowd.[24]

Protest[edit]

The day after the accident, 20 October, some locals staged a sit-in protest on the railway tracks, demanding action from officials, the train driver, and "adequate compensation" for the victims.[14] Some protesters demanded that the families of those killed receive government jobs, and placed blame on officials. Railway services were continued after 40 hours after the incident.[25]

Railway[edit]

Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, on a visit to the United States at the time of the accident, announced his immediate return to India.[26] The route between Jalandhar and Amritsar was suspended, and the day after the incident 37 trains were cancelled, 16 trains diverted, and 18 trains terminated early.[27]

Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha stated that the railways administration had not been informed of the festival's location or timing.[28] A senior Indian Railways official described the incident as "a clear case of trespassing" and, when asked why the train did not stop or slow as it approached, explained that there was "so much smoke that the driver was unable to see anything and he was also negotiating a curve."[29]

Driver[edit]

The driver reported the accident immediately to the Amritsar Junction station master[30] and was detained by the Punjab Police and Railway Police at Ludhiana Railway Station for questioning.[31] The driver reportedly told officials that he had received a green signal and had no idea that there were hundreds of people standing on the tracks.[32] Railways Minister of State Manoj Sinha denied any negligence on the driver's part and stated that no action was being taken against him.[33]

The driver released a letter on 21 October which detailed his account of the crash. He said that he applied the emergency brakes and honked to disperse the crowd, but when a mob surrounded the train and threw stones at the train he continued to the next stop.[34]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The name is that of a railway crossing. Other spellings used in the English-language media include "Jaura"[4] and "Jodha".[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Dussehra tragedy in Amritsar". The Hindu. 19 October 2018.
  2. ^ "Amritsar train accident LIVE: Nearly 60 dead, PM Modi announces Rs 2 lakh compensation to kins of victims". Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  3. ^ "Amritsar: Scores dead as train mows down crowd". BBC News. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  4. ^ "60 Dead As Train Hits Crowd Watching Ravan-Burning In Punjab: 10 Points".
  5. ^ "Nitish Blames Puja Organizers in Amritsar for Train Tragedy". Patna Daily. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  6. ^ a b Sharma, Munish. "Train runs over crowd on tracks in northern India, 50 feared dead". U.S. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  7. ^ "Dussehra turns tragic in Amritsar as 60 crushed under train". The Times of India. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  8. ^ "Amritsar train accident: Joda Phatak gateman narrates horror, says left immediately to avoid getting lynched". Times Now Digital. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  9. ^ "Punjab train accident: Eyewitnesses recount horror - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  10. ^ "Amritsar train tragedy: Applied emergency brakes but wasn't able to prevent casualties, says driver". 21 October 2018. The Times of India. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  11. ^ "58 dead as train mows into crowd watching Ravan burn in Amritsar". The Times of India. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  12. ^ "At least 50 dead as train hits crowd watching fireworks in India". The Guardian. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  13. ^ a b "Amritsar train tragedy LIVE updates: Death toll rises to 61, Punjab Government declares state mourning". The Financial Express. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  14. ^ a b "Indians protest after train accident kills dozens". www.aljazeera.com. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Amritsar train accident: Latest updates". The Hindu. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Make Socio-economic Profiles of Amritsar Train Accident Victims, Punjab CM Tells Administration". News18. Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  17. ^ "40 of those killed in Amritsar train accident identified: Officials". The Economic Times. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  18. ^ "Forty Victims of Amritsar Train Accident Identified". The Wire. 21 October 2018. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  19. ^ "'People turned Ravan': Mobile phones, wallets of dead and injured stolen after Amritsar train accident | India News". Retrieved 22 October 2018.
  20. ^ "Relief Operations Being Conducted At Amritsar Accident Site: Piyush Goyal". NDTV.com. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  21. ^ "Punjab: Navjot Singh Sidhu to take charge of Local Government, Tourism & Cultural Affairs Ministry". The Indian Express. 16 March 2017. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  22. ^ "Will Adopt All Children Who Lost Parents In Amritsar Train Accident: Navjot Sidhu". News18. Retrieved 2018-10-24.
  23. ^ "President, Vice President and PM Modi express grief over Amritsar train accident". Doordarshan. 20 October 2018.
  24. ^ "Footage show people taking selfies from tracks during Amritsar tragedy, criticised". The Economic Times. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  25. ^ PHATAK, JODA (20 October 2018). "Residents Stage Protest At Amritsar Train Accident Site". NDTV.com. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  26. ^ "61 dead as train mows down Dusserah crowd in Amritsar". The Hindu. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  27. ^ "In Photos: The Aftermath of the Deadly Amritsar Train Accident". The Wire. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  28. ^ "Amritsar train accident Updates: Railway admin had no information about Dussehra event, says minister". Hindustan Times. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  29. ^ "Amritsar train accident clear case of trespassing, no permission given for event: Railway officials". Hindustan Times. Press Trust of India. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  30. ^ "Loco-pilot informed station master at next station about accident". The Times of India. 19 October 2018. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  31. ^ "Amritsar train tragedy: Top developments". The Times of India. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  32. ^ "Amritsar train accident: Driver says he was given green signal, Railways says not our fault". India Today. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  33. ^ "No action against driver, says MoS for Railways Manoj Sinha". The Hindu. 20 October 2018. Retrieved 20 October 2018.
  34. ^ "Amritsar train tragedy: Applied emergency brakes but wasn't able to prevent casualties, says driver - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 October 2018.