While the entire country is still in a the groove of Dussehra celebrations, the city of Amritsar is enveloped in an air of gloom. Two speeding trains coming from opposite directions mowed down the crowd on tracks, near a railway crossing. Around 300 people had gathered to see the spectacular burning of Ravana’s effigy.
The mishap occurred on Friday evening, near Dhobi Ghat ground, located just 2 kms away from Amritsar railway station. The celebration was taking place in an open area next to the railway tracks. Many of the spectators were standing on the tracks near Jora Phatak crossing to get a better view of the celebrations. They were recording videos on their phones, when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU ran them over.
The tragedy intensified when the second train, Howrah-Amritsar Express, came speeding from the opposite direction. Many people who had jumped on to the second track to save themselves from the first train got caught under this one. At least 60 people lost their lives, while 72 others were injured. Seven of the injured spectators are said to be in a critical condition. The death toll is expected to rise.
What led to the Amritsar train tragedy?
The grand annual celebration of Dussehra was to conclude with the burning of Ravana’s effigy. The event was scheduled to happen at 6 pm. However, it got pushed to 7 pm as the chief guest was late. When the effigy was finally lit, firecrackers started shooting towards the spectators. This led to utter chaos in the crowd.
Amidst all this commotion and noise, people standing on the railway tracks failed to take notice of the approaching train. Many were thrown off the tracks, while others came under the wheels. After the tragedy, the entire track, with severed body parts, presented a gory sight to onlookers.
It is being speculated that the mass massacre occurred due to administrative negligence. The spectators’ ignorance towards public safety also contributed to the tragedy. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has order a magisterial inquiry to find out the root cause of this mishap. He has given a deadline of four weeks for the final report.
CM Singh has also announced a compensation of Rs. 5 lakh to the kin of each deceased. He has also offered free treatment for all the injured. He has called off his trip to Tel Aviv as well.
The entire nation is in a state of mourning, with many politicians expressing condolences on Twitter:
Extremely saddened by the train accident in Amritsar. The tragedy is heart-wrenching. My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones and I pray that the injured recover quickly. Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 19, 2018
May God give strength to the bereaved and injured. Railways is proving all possible assistance at the site.— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) October 19, 2018
I have cancelled all engagemnts in USA and immediately returning back to India.