Amritsar: At least 60 were killed in a tragic accident on Friday when a local train ran over people gathered to watch Dussehra celebrations in Choura Bazar near here. They were on a level crossing when the accident took place and those who managed to escape said that noise from crackers from the event muted the sound of the oncoming train.
The event was organised in a field which is believed to be big enough for 2000 people. At Friday's event, some estimates say close to 7000 people had gathered, many forced to stand on the railway track to watch the celebrations. It is also reported that many were busy clicking selfies or making videos of the celebrations and did not notice the train. Railway authorities have said train speeds are pre-set and emergency brakes are not effective enough to halt it at a moments notice. That the accident took place after sunset - around 1850hrs - meant that the driver may not have had any visual warning either.
Eyewitness accounts reveal horror tales with disfigured bodies spread all across.
While the injured have been rushed to hospitals nearby, the blame game has already begun with organisers saying no security was provided while many pointing fingers at them for not ensuring proper crowd management. Many are also questioning the Indian Railways for the accident. It is being said that the event was organised by Congress and that Navjot Kaur Sidhu - wife of minister Navjot Singh Sidhu - was the chief guest. She has deflected the blame by attacking Indian Railways.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has announced Rs 5 lakh to families of those killed and said he would personally monitor the situation. Union Railway Minister Piyush Goel has cut short his US trip while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind expressed condolences.
Schools, colleges and government offices across Punjab will stay shut on Saturday to express grief while reports say eight trains have been cancelled, five have been diverted, ten have been short-terminated and five have short-originated.