Anger brews in Amritsar after train tragedy

Railway Board Chairman Ashwani Lohani further briefed that the two manned level-crossing on the track where the accident took place was closed

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The Shiromani Akali Dal core committee on Sunday demanded immediate sacking of Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and registration of a murder case against his wife and Dussehra event organisers, saying they were "responsible for abetting" the Amritsar tragedy.

Punjab State's Chief Minister Amarinder Singh told reporters on Saturday that 59 people had died with 57 injured in the accident and that an official inquiry would be carried out over the next four weeks. The train was travelling from Jalandhar to Amritsar.

Police have said that numerous victims were dismembered beyond recognition, and it will take several days to identify the dead.

Twenty-seven trains have been cancelled since Saturday due to the blockade, reported the Hindustan Times.

Witnesses said the dead included children.

The disaster was over in 10-15 seconds, people at the spot said.

"Normally trains cross this area slowly as it is heavily populated and is approaching the railway station".

Investigators said victims did not hear the train because the drone of the locomotive was drowned out by firecrackers.

"This was an incident where people were trespassing on the tracks and not an accident", Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani said. "An action should be taken who permitted to celebrate Dusshera near the railway track", he said.

Indian people gather at the scene of an accident along railroad tracks in Amritsar on October 20, 2018, after revellers who gathered on the tracks were killed by a moving train on October 19. "Moreover, nobody had applied for the permission with the Amritsar Municipal Corporation", Commissioner Sonali Giri said. Dussehra celebrations were not held at this spot previous year.

Onlookers rubbished the driver's claims and said the train did not slow down anywhere near the spot.

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Thomas - who retired to Mexico six years ago - added that he wasn't surprised by the news, saying: "I'm delighted for them both ". He said: "But people did start noticing when teams came and swept the boat with a bomb dog, they even sent divers underneath it".

The relief effort was hampered by confusion and the onset of nightfall. He has asked all government and private hospitals to stay open. "The injured have been rushed to the hospital and passengers are being evacuated".

It is the job of the state of Punjab to see that railway tracks are secured from all the sides.

"The Commission conducts statutory investigation into railway accidents".

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal who was in the USA, cancelled all his engagements and was set to return.

Railways bosses may have given a clean chit to the accused locomotive driver who drove the train at full speed on the track as well as the gateman who despite the presence of the crowd allowed the train to move but the Punjab police will fix the criminal liability of the people who were at the helm of affairs. It has been 48 hours since the accident occurred and the police still have no clue about the father and son who remain missing.

Neither the organisers nor the police administration had barricaded the tracks to stop people from venturing onto them, preliminary investigations have revealed.

The Dusherra festival revelers were crushed to death by a moving train while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy here. While some of them were filming the burning of the effigy, others were trying to save themselves. There was no chance of us reacting, leave alone pelt stones.

"When everybody knows that Dussehra function had been organised here for the past several years, appropriate steps should have been taken beforehand to prevent such kind of tragedy", she said.

Another witness said the victims did not realise that a train was coming because the fireworks were too loud.

The Congress on Sunday said that Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha's rejection of an inquiry into the Railways' role in the Amritsar tragedy was "extremely cruel".

An officer in the police control room said it was hard to confirm the toll as there were dismembered body parts all over. Priority is to get the injured treated.

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