Indians protest after train accident kills dozens

India's huge railway network is notorious for accidents that lead to thousands of deaths each year.

Angry relatives staged a protest on Saturday on the tracks where a
speeding train ran into crowds celebrating a Hindu festival, killing
around 60 people in northern India.

The Jalandhar-Amritsar express hit scores of revellers who had gathered
on the railway tracks on the outskirts of Amritsar city in Punjab state
on Friday to watch a firework display.

Many of the victims were dismembered or mutilated beyond recognition and
police said it would take several days to complete the identification
of the dead.

Some desperate parents went from hospital to hospital in the city on
Saturday looking for missing children, while the first funerals of some
victims were held.

Hardeep Singh, chief medical officer for Amritsar, told the AFP news
agency 59 deaths had been confirmed and 90 people had been injured, with
seven in critical condition.

Singh said only 25 bodies had been identified so far. Amritsar's main
hospital did not have enough space in its morgue, and some corpses were
laid outside.

Train not heard

The disaster led to new demands for safety reforms to India's
accident-plagued railway system, which records thousands of deaths each

Punjab State Governor VP Singh Badnore said: "Those who need to be punished will be punished and accountability will be fixed."

Scores of protesters, who gathered on the railway tracks, condemned the
Punjab state government and demanded action against the driver who was
questioned by police on Saturday. Others blocked a nearby road.

Police moved the protesters off the tracks and brought in reinforcements
to control a crowd of hundreds that gathered around the scene of the

Investigators said victims did not hear the train because the drone of
the locomotive was drowned out by firecrackers. Another train had
narrowly missed the crowds two minutes earlier, officials said.

According to media reports, the driver told police he did not see the
revellers until the last second because he had come around a bend in the
dark into the firework smoke.

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

Indian Railways said it had not been informed of the celebration, even
though locals said it had been held at the same place for several years.

According to media reports, the organisers - members of the Congress party which rules Punjab - had gone into hiding.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal returned early from a trip to the United
States to go to Amritsar on Saturday. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder
Singh called off a trip to Israel to go to the disaster scene.

India's huge railway network is notorious for accidents.

A 2012 government report described the loss of 15,000 passengers to rail
accidents every year in India as a "massacre". The government has
pledged $137bn over five years to modernise the crumbling network.

In 1981, seven carriages from a train fell into a river as it crossed a
bridge in the eastern state of Bihar, killing between 800 and 1,000

But nearly every month there are accidents involving trains that derail or hit vehicles on crossings.

In April, 13 children were killed when a train hit their school bus. In
November 2016, the Patna-Indore express derailed in Uttar Pradesh state
in the middle of the night, killing 139 people.

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