Ex-India state official: Most train victims were migrant workers

The accident site

Medical teams were rushed to the site of the accident in which at least 61 people, including women and children, died and 72 were injured after the train coming from Jalandhar to Amritsar ran over a crowd standing across the tracks to watch the Dussehra celebration.

Earlier on Friday, Dussehra celebrations were organised in Choura Bazar, Amritsar on Friday evening where hundreds of people assembled to witness the burning of Ravan's effigy.

"We have 59 confirmed dead".

The victims were crowded on the rail track on the outskirts of Amritsar in Punjab state, said Pratap Singh Bajwa.

A Reuters witness at the scene saw bodies of victims strewn around rail tracks, friends and relatives stood around in shock, many were sobbing and appeared distraught. "The priority now is to take the injured to the hospital", Amritsar city police commissioner S. S. Srivastava told news agencies. Reuters could not immediately confirm that death toll.

Police said it was "freak accident" as people did not hear the train approaching amid the din of festivities and fireworks.

During the festival of Dussehra people all over the country set aflame large effigies of a 10-headed demon from the Hindu epic Ramayana in a ceremony that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil.

He said the loco pilot was "well within the permissible [speed] limit", and "even if it (the train) is delayed at Mananwala by five or seven minutes it will reach Amritsar in time".

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"At midsections trains run at their assigned speeds and people are not expected to be on the tracks At midsections there is no railway staff posted".

Sporadic protests broke out near the accident site, with scores of protesters calling for action against the local authorities and the train driver who was questioned by police on Saturday.

He said the inquiry ordered into the incident by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh was a "mere eyewash".

Singh declared a state of mourning and said all offices and educational institutions across the state would remain closed on Saturday. Dinesh Kumar, divisional railway manager of Ambala told TOI, "We issue special instructions for the places we had problems with, including trespassing".

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to say he was extremely saddened by the "heart-wrenching tragedy" and urged officials to provide immediate assistance to the injured and the victims' families. "My deepest condolences to those who have lost family and loved ones", Guterres said in a tweet.

When asked why the driver didn't halt despite seeing people, the official said smoke affected his vision.

Last year, Indian officials reportedly tallied almost 600 rail accidents in the preceding five years, around half of which were due to derailments.

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