An Indian express train derailed early Sunday, killing over 100 people in one of the country’s worst rail disasters in years, police said, as emergency workers searched the mangled wreckage for survivors.
It is the worst disaster since 2010 when a passenger train crashed into a freight train in the eastern state of West Bengal, killing 146 and injuring over 200.
“The death toll has topped 100 now,” said Daljit Singh Chawdhary, the additional police director-general.
Another 150 were injured and rushed to nearby hospitals, which had been placed on high alert after the early morning disaster.
Rescue workers were searching to see if more passengers were still trapped inside the badly mangled coaches of the Patna-Indore express train, Singh said.
Fourteen carriages of the train, travelling between the northeastern city of Patna and the central city of Indore, were thrown off track in Pukhrayan, 65 kilometers south of Kanpur city, according to railway officials.
Local media reports said the train was packed with families, some of them travelling home for weddings. Railway officials said special trains had been pressed into service for stranded travellers.
“We are also trying to clear the tracks and complete the restoration work as quickly as possible,” Vijay Kumar, a spokesman for north-central railways, told AFP.
Suresh Prabhu, India’s Railways Minister, said in a tweet the government would immediately investigate the causes of the derailment and promised accountability with the “strictest possible action.”
‘Shaken to core’
Anxious relatives thronged the station on Indore in central India where the train originated, many clutching pictures of their loved-ones.
Nitika Trivedi, a student who boarded the train with her family from the eastern city of Patna, said images of the bodies of her fellow passengers would long haunt her.
“I had never seen anything like this in my life before. I am shaken to the core,” she said.
Bride-to-be Ruby Gupta, who survived the accident with a fractured arm, was desperately searching for her father.
“I have been looking everywhere for him,” she said according to the Press Trust of India.
Poor safety record
India’s creaking railway system is the world’s fourth largest, ferrying more than 20 million people each day, but it has a poor safety record, with thousands of people dying in accidents every year.
The nation suffers frequent train derailments, sometimes with tragic consequences, including another train accident in Uttar Pradesh in March last year that killed 39 people and injured 150.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to express his condolences.
“Anguished beyond words on the loss of lives due to the derailing of the Patna-Indore express. My thoughts are with the bereaved families,” Modi said.