At least 50 people were killed and several injured this evening when a train ran into crowd watching Dussehra celebrations near Amritsar in Punjab, police said.
The incident took place around 6.45 pm at Dhobi Ghat near Jaura Phatak railway crossing. A crowd of around 300 people was watching Ravan effigy burn when the local passenger train hit the people standing on the track watching the effigy of Ravan burn about 200 feet away, said senior police officer Lakhbir Singh.
When the effigy of Ravana burnt, the whole area resonated with the sound of the crackers. At this time, Nakodar Jalandhar DMU no. 74943, a local passenger train, came and ran into people standing on the track, who were shooting videos of the burning effigy.
Subdivisional magistrate Rajesh Sharma said death toll had mounted to 50, according to PTI.
Another police officer of Amritsar police said around 35 people has received serious injuries in the incident.
Eyewitnesses said there were no barricading near the railway tracks and the people were forced to see the Dusshehra ceremony by standing on tracks. The effigy of Ravana was being burnt around 200 feet away from the railway track.
ANI quoted Northern Railway CPRO as saying that due to some incident, people started running towards gate no. 27 between Amritsar and Manawala.
News agency PTI said according to officials, two trains arrived from opposite direction at the same time giving little opportunity to people to escape.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the incident and said he had asked officials to provide immediate assistance.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh expressed shock at the incident and directed district authorities have been directed to take up relief and rescue operations on a war footing, ANI tweeted. Singh announced Rs 5 lakh aid to kin of each deceased and free treatment to the injured. The CM said he was rushing to Amritsar to supervise relief operations.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh also expressed pain at the loss of lives.