Train mows down crowd at India festival, at least 58 dead

Indian relatives and revellers gather around the bodies of the victims of a train accident during the occasion of the Hindu festival of Dussehra in Amritsar

Train mows down crowd at India festival, at least 58 dead

SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal on Saturday demanded compensation of Rs 1 crore per person and government jobs for the families of those killed in the tragic train accident here.

As the blame game spread, police said they had given permission for the display for the annual Dussehra festival fireworks but that organisers did not have approval from the city, health department and fire brigade.

A speeding train ran over a crowd watching fireworks during a religious festival in northern India on Friday evening, killing at least 58 people and injuring dozens more, police said. "This was an incident where people were trespassing on the tracks and not an accident", Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani said.

The crowd had gathered to burn an effigy of Hindu demon-king Ravana, the culmination of the yearly festival of Dussehra.

Police are investigating whether the organizers had a permit for the event and at what speed the train that ran over the crowd was traveling, said Amritsar's police commissioner, S.S. Srivastava.

Railways also said that no action will be taken against the driver of the train who had managed to slow down the train to around 68 kmph from the speed of 91kmph at which he was assigned to run.

In a statement he said that the accident occurred at a stretch between two stations - Amritsar and Manawala, and not at a level crossing. "Announcements were made 4-5 times asking people to come inside Dhobi Ghat ground", she said. The government, which had allowed the event to be held near a railway line.

An eyewitness at Amritsar accident site said, "Congress had organised Dussehra celebrations here without permission".

"I am feeling a strong headache and pain in my back and legs", Das said from his hospital bed, adding his injuries were not serious. 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. The railways have said it was not responsible for the tragedy. The Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has ordered a magisterial enquiry into the accident and also directed the railway officials to form strict guidelines for future celebrations in the area.

Neither the organisers nor the police administration had barricaded the tracks to stop people from venturing onto them, preliminary investigations have revealed. "There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated", Sinha said Saturday.

As the effigy was lit and the fireworks went off, a section of the crowd started retreating towards the tracks where a large number of people were already standing.

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