Dozens of people died when a train ran into a crowd watching fireworks during a religious festival in northern India, according to authorities.
- People did not hear the train approaching amid the din of festivities
- At least 60 admitted to hospital in “freak accident”
- The incident was among the deadliest rail tragedies in recent years
Railway police said 60 people died in a “freak accident” which happened when the sound of fireworks at the Dussehra festival on the outskirts of Amritsar made it impossible for people to hear the commuter train bearing down on them.
At least 50 injured people were admitted to hospital.
A witness said the train did not even sound its whistle as it sped past the site.
“Why did authorities allow the fireworks display so close to the railroad track?'” he asked.
Punjab’s Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said he was rushing to Amritsar to supervise relief and rescue operations.
“District authorities have been mobilised on war footing,” he tweeted.
Local television stations showed images of angry and distraught locals, including a weeping mother who had just lost a child in the tragedy.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was saddened by the accident.
“The tragedy is heart-wrenching,” he tweeted.
“My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly.”
Navjot Kaur Siddhu, a local Congress party politician who was the chief guest at the religious function, said the celebrations took place in the area every year, and railroad authorities were alerted to run the trains at slow speeds.
While accidents are relatively common on India’s sprawling rail network, Friday’s was among the deadliest in recent years.
In 2016, 146 people were killed when a train slid off railroad tracks in eastern India.