Home>News Center>World

Negligence blamed for Indian train crash
Updated: 2004-12-15 20:27

MUKHERIYAN, India - Authorities said that negligence caused a head-on collision between two packed trains that killed 38 people in northern India, as police searched for two railway officials blamed for the tragedy.

Newspapers, however, said antiquated equipment was at fault. "Killing laxity," The Hindustan Times splashed on its front page.

The Indian Express said "the head-on collision ... was waiting to happen," adding that it surveyed the system and "found a crumbling communications network and virtually non-existent infrastructure."

The accident happened Tuesday when an apparent signalling blunder between separate stations allowed the trains on to a single track. They collided in Punjab state 150 kilometers (90 miles) east of Amritsar.

"The death toll stands at 38. Fifty-two people have been injured out of whom 11 have been sent home. The rest are recovering in five hospitals," assistant inspector general of railways S.S. Bhullar told AFP at the crash site.

Two were in critical condition, police said.

In a grim reminder of the frequent accidents on one of the world's biggest railway networks, four people including a child died Wednesday and 10 were hurt when a train collided with a van at a railway crossing near Munidyampakkam in southern Tamil Nadu state.

Parliament was plunged into uproar with opposition MPs demanding the resignation of Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav over the accident, bellowing, "Shame, shame!"

The minister, who had called the accident "brutal murder" and blamed negligent officials, was not in the house at the time.

Newspapers attacked the government over Tuesday's collision, the latest in a long list of fatal accidents involving the railway, for failing to upgrade communications and safety equipment.

They said the normal instrument signal system between the two train stations broke down 24 hours before the accident and railway officials were giving clearance verbally to allow train drivers to proceed.

Successive governments have faced criticism for not spending enough to upgrade crumbling infrastructure on the railways, the main form of long-distance transport in India that carries 13 million people daily.

The system that sprawls 108,700 kilometers (66,800 miles) across the nation of over one billion people records about 300 accidents every year, some of which have resulted in hundreds of deaths.

The accident "took place because of the negligence of the station masters. Normally they let one train go and the other one stops," said Bhullar.

"The two station masters are being investigated for negligence and culpable homicide. We raided their homes but they have absconded," he said. "We are searching for them."

But Om Prakash, 54, a railway worker who suffered bad cuts and bruises in the accident, said authorities were blaming the station officials unfairly.

"It's the government's fault. Track workers have to work over 12 hours when they're only supposed to work eight. You can't hold them responsible when they work like this," he said from his hospital bed at Mukheriyan, the nearest large town to the crash site.

Police were questioning witnesses about the smash, which happened on a line running through Mansar village in rural Punjab.

One track worker in Mansar, Gurbachan Singh, said they tried desperately to flag down the trains when they saw them speeding toward each other. "The local train tried to stop, it braked twice, but the express train kept going."

By Wednesday cranes had cleared the track, allowing trains to pass. Seven wagons lay nearby tilting at crazy angles, a mess of tangled metal.

Passenger Narayan Mahapatra, 32, a bakery worker recovering in hospital from a head injury, said he heard "a loud explosion. I thought it was a bomb. The coach was filled with choking black smoke ... then I lost consciousness."

The express train left Jammu in Kashmir Tuesday bound for the western city of Ahmedabad. On board were some Hindu pilgrims returning from a shrine in the Himalayas. The local train was travelling between Jalandhar and Pathankot.

  Today's Top News     Top World News

Taiwan separatist actions prove unpopular



Target jobless rate to see first drop



Party school raises AIDS awareness



Mass entries vie for 2008 Olympic mascot



Fed raises US interest rate to 2.25%



N.Korea: Any sanctions would mean war


  Gunmen seize bus in Athens suburbs -- police
  Hamas cancels anniversary rally
  Negligence blamed for Indian train crash
  Iran, Syria said backed terrorists in Iraq
  Poland to cut number of troops in Iraq by around one-third
  Iran open to U.S. involvement in nuclear talks
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Indian train crash kills 27, injures 60
15 dead in India train collision
Report: FBI finds link between 9/11, Madrid bombs
Voith Turbo eyes China's train upgrades
Passenger train derailed in NE China
Philippine rail cars crash into ravine, 100 trapped
China's own maglev train makes 1st trip
  News Talk  
  Are the Republicans exploiting the memory of 9/11?