July 18, 2024, 11:16 am

Int'l Correspondent

2024-06-18 09:34:50 BdST

15 killed, 60 injured in train accident in India

At least 15 passengers were killed and 60 people injured as three coaches of a stationary passenger train were hit by a freight train in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district on Monday, officials said.

The death toll could rise, as multiple agencies of the federal Indian and West Bengal state governments were simultaneously working on a war footing along with locals to rescue passengers who could still be trapped inside, they said.

The three rear compartments of Kanchenjunga Express, which was coming from Agartala, the capital city of Tripura state and heading to Sealdah in Kolkata, derailed after it was hit from behind by the locomotive of the goods train near Rangapani station, about 30 km from New Jalpaiguri station, the official said.

According to preliminary information received from railway officials, the passenger train was stationary on the tracks when the goods train rammed into it from behind.

In a post on X, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the "railway accident in West Bengal is saddening. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones. I pray that the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to officials and took stock of the situation. Rescue operations are underway to assist the affected. The Railways Minister Shri @AshwiniVaishnaw Ji is on the way to the site of the mishap as well," he said.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who on Monday left for West Bengal to take stock of relief operations following the train accident, announced ex-gratia compensation to the victims.

While Rs 10 lakh would be given to the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 2.5 lakh would be provided to the grievously injured and Rs 50,000 to those with minor injuries, Vaishnaw posted on X.

While two rear compartments of the Kanchanjunga Express were immediately thrown off the tracks under the severe impact, another bogie was seen precariously hanging mid-air with the engine of the goods train tucked underneath.

Inclement weather in the region posed an additional challenge to rescue operations, the officials said.

The accident triggered memories of another express train disaster near Bahanaga Bazar in Odisha a year ago, which killed nearly 300 people and injured over a 1,000 others.

Earlier in the day, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in a post on X, said: “Shocked to learn about a tragic train accident in Phansidewa area of Darjeeling district. While details are awaited, Kanchenjunga Express has reportedly been hit by a goods train."

Railway officials, meanwhile, confirmed that the ill-fated Kanchanjunga Express has begun its journey to Kolkata with passengers in the unaffected coaches.

“The train has started from the accident site around 12.40 pm and is expected to reach Sealdah at 8 pm,” Kaushik Mitra, CPRO, Eastern Railway, told reporters in Kolkata.

Long-distance train services from north Bengal and the northeastern part of India were affected by the accident on a route that links mainland India with the north eastern states.

Preliminary reports from the ground suggested that the loco pilot of the goods train may have overshot its signal. No confirmation was, however, received on whether there were problems with the signaling system or explanations given on how the two trains could come so close to each other on a single track.

A passenger from Agartala, who was in coach number S6 of the Kanchanjunga Express, said he felt a sudden jerk and the compartment screeched to a halt.

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