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At least 60 dead as train runs over revellers in India

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At least 60 people including women and children were mowed down by a train near Jaura Pharak near Amritsar as they were watching Dussehra festivities. The incident took place around 6.45 PM at Dhobi Ghat near Jaura Phatak railway crossing at gate number 27 between Amritsar and Manawala, reported The New Indian Express (India).

The revellers at Dussehra celebrations were standing close to railway tracks to watch a Ravan effigy burn when the local passenger train hit the people standing on the track watching the effigy burn about 200 feet away and could not hear the oncoming trains over the noise of firecrackers.

At that time, Nakodar Jalandhar DMU no. 74943, a local passenger train, came and ran into people standing on the track, who were shooting videos of the burning effigy. As another train also arrived from the opposite direction at the same time giving little opportunity to people to escape. There were about five hundred people at the spot.

Sources said that the moment the effigy of Ravana caught fire, crackers started flying around. As the effigy was being burnt near the railway track. A section of the crowd started retreating towards the tracks where a large number of people were already standing to watch the event. Then the people started running helter-skelter for safety trampling each other.

Navjot Kaur Sidhu, wife of state local bodies minister Navjot Singh Sidhu was the chief guest there when the incident took place.

"As Dussehra celebration were underway people started rushing towards closed gate number 27 while a DMU train number 74943 was passing through as it was coming to Amritsar from Jalandhar,'' said a railway official.

An eyewitness said: "the train travelling at a fast speed ran over several people. The administration and the Dussehra committee are at fault, they should have raised an alarm when the train was approaching, they should have made sure that the train halts or slows down.''

"There were no barricading near the railway tracks and the people were forced to see the Dusshehra ceremony by standing on tracks,'' said another eyewitness.

Locals alleged that Navjot Kaur Sidhu who was the chief guest at the event left the venue as soon as the incident took place. Amritsar Police Commissioner SS Srivastava said, "There are more than 50 casualties. We are evacuating people and the injured are being taken to the hospital."

Sub Divisional Magistrate Amritsar I Rajesh Sharma said fifty bodies have been found and at least fifty injured have been admitted to a government hospital. The rescue operations were launched and efforts are underway to save people from the debris.

Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has ordered an inquiry into the tragic train accident. He was scheduled to leave for Israel this evening, but has postponed his trip and will fly to Amritsar in the morning to personally assess the damage and meet the families of the victims of the mishap. Acting on the Chief Minister's directives, Rehabilitation Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Health Minister Brahm Mohindra have already rushed to Amritsar to supervise the rescue and relief operations. The Home Secretary and the Health Secretary, along with DGP Law & Order, have also left for Amritsar.

Amarinder has ordered all the necessary administrative and police personnel to be mobilised on war footing to help out the district administration tackle the tragic situation. He has also directed the Chief Secretary to deploy all the necessary administrative officials to ensure that the injured are immediately lifted to hospitals across Amritsar.

All private hospitals have also been asked to stay open, along with government hospitals, to provide urgent free treatment and care to the injured. Extending his government's full support to the district administration in this hour of grief, Amarinder has ordered all the administrative and police manpower needed at the site to be immediately mobilised.

The government will do everything possible to help the district authorities to tackle the unprecedented situation, she said adding that a thorough probe will be conducted into the incident, including how and why an effigy was allowed to be burnt on the railway track. He has announced immediate ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased. Minister of state of Railways Manoj Sinha is immediately rushing to Amritsar along with chairman of the railway board.

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