Indian train crash kills 27, injures 60
MUKERIAN, India - Two passenger trains collided in northern India on Tuesday, killing at least 27 people and injuring more than 60, officials said.
Several coaches went off the tracks when the Jammu Tawi express crashed head-on into a local train near Mukerian town in Punjab state at about noon (1:30 a.m. EST), they said.
"It sounded like a huge bomb explosion," a woman on the express train told Star News TV.
Officials said they had yet to determine the cause of the latest accident on India's railway network, which is one of the world's largest, but has a poor safety record.
At least five cars were badly damaged and were lying in a heap of mangled metal and wheels, a Reuters photographer at the site said. One car had been split in two.
One engine had climbed on top of another and was pointing skywards while some coaches were upside down on the track, which runs through green paddy fields.
Railway officials said they had recovered 27 bodies and did not expect the toll to climb much more. About 60 people were injured and not 250 as police had reported earlier, they said.
Villagers worked with their bare hands to remove passengers from the wreckage before rescue teams arrived with metal cutters.
"I saw smashed bodies in the damaged coaches. There was a woman and a small child next to her. Both were dead," he said.
Clothes and luggage were strewn around the site where hundreds of villagers gathered to watch the rescue. Television pictures showed several people climbing on top of the twisted carriages, apparently trying to break their way in.
The express train was carrying some Hindu pilgrims home from Vaishno Devi, a revered shrine in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir state.
The Indian rail network operates nearly 14,000 trains a day, carrying more than 13 million passengers, but has about 300 accidents a year.
Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav told parliament he would visit the site to determine the cause of the accident. "The guilty will be punished after the reason is known," he said.
The rail system is saddled with huge losses because of its rock-bottom fares and a bloated workforce, leaving little for investment in infrastructure and safety.
A report on railway safety last year blamed "employee error" for 65 percent of accidents over the previous decade. A collision between two trains killed 220 people in Punjab in 1998.