At least 21 dead after train accident in India

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Two passenger trains collided in India early on Wednesday, killing at least 21 people and injuring more than twenty others, reports have said. The accident occurred at around 05.30 local time (00.00 UTC), when a passenger train collided with another train which was waiting at a red signal near the northern city of Agra.

Both the trains were in the final leg of their journey at the time of the collision. They were heading to the capital, New Delhi, which is about 200 kilometers north of the accident site.

Passengers said that they were sleeping when they felt a heavy jolt. One eyewitness told television crews that people on the upper berths of the train came tumbling down due to the impact: "We felt a massive jolt. People sleeping on upper berths fell to the floor."

"There was a loud bang and we were suddenly thrown out of our seats. There was panic everywhere," another passenger recounted.

A northern railway spokesman, R. D. Vajpayee, told the Voice of America news agency that the rear coach of the stationary train bore the brunt of the collision's impact. "We had to rescue, take out the passengers which were trapped in the last coach. And, gas cutters were used, and we had called the army also. They had assisted us and, within a few hours, we had completed with rescue operations."

An unnamed eyewitness told the CNN-IBN news agency that "there are many people who are injured and many people who are dead. A lot of people fell onto the tracks because of the impact of the collision."

Railway officials said they are not certain what caused the accident, but one of the trains may have overlooked a signal to stop. An inquiry into the incident has been ordered.

Trains are the most popular mode of long-distance travel in India. India operates one of the most extensive and busiest rail networks in the world; 9,000 passenger trains run every day, carrying more than eighty million people daily across the country. There are about 300 rail accidents in the country every year, prompting calls for improving safety standards on the rail network. Earlier this month, one person was killed when a train derailed. In February, another train accident in eastern India claimed sixteen lives.