Train derailment kills at least 23 in India

By Allen Cone  |  Updated Aug. 20, 2017 at 6:43 PM
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Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Workers continued to search for survivors Sunday, a day after a train derailed in India, killing at least 23 people and injuring more than 80 others.

The incident occurred at 5:46 p.m. Saturday as a Puri-Haridwar Kalinga Utkal Express train was crossing at 65 mph near the Muzaffarnagar district in the state of Uttar Pradesh, about 80 miles north of India's capital New Delhi, officials said. The train was heading to the Hindu holy city of Haridwar.

Fourteen cars in the middle of the train went off the tracks, crumpling into each other and crashing into nearby houses.

"Five Sleeper coaches were the worst affected," a Railways spokesman told The Indian Express.

Officials said the death toll may rise as some of the injured were listed in serious condition.

Passengers in eight coaches were not injured.

Rescue workers were slowed because of darkness and cars on top of one another.

"We are struggling to pull out injured, and are waiting for gas cutters to arrive," Ajay Pandey, a senior police officer at the site of the crash, said in a Sky News report.

Two heavy-duty cranes were brought in Sunday.

Uttar Pradesh police director Sulkhan Singh said a team of the state's Anti Terrorism Squad was there "to help in the investigation."

Indian Express sources said that work related to the doubling of tracks was being done next to the line.

"The driver is slightly injured and the Railways is trying to ascertain if he had applied the emergency brakes," said one source.

The train did not have an anti-climbing feature to prevent one coach from piling on another.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi posted on Twitter: "Extremely pained by the derailment of the Utkal Express in Muzaffarnagar. My thoughts are with the families of the deceased. I wish those injured a speedy recovery. The situation is being monitored very closely by the Railways Ministry."

Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu said $5,500 will be given each to the families of those killed, $780 to those seriously injured and $390 to those with minor injuries.

India has the world's third-largest rail network with 23 million passengers a day, but the trains are running on struggling infrastructure.

In the past year, there have been 99 accidents that involved casualties, with track defects detected in 40 of them. In November, the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur, killing 150 passengers. One month later, the Sealdah Ajmer Express derailed, injuring 63 passengers. In January this year, 32 people died after the Hirakhand Express derailed near Vizianagram in Andhra Pradesh. In all these cases, Railways said that it suspected sabotage.

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