Amritsar: Police in the northern Indian state of Punjab has launched an investigation into the Dusshera tragedy here on Friday evening in which a local train crushed at least 58 people while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy from a railway track.
The incident left 72 people injured, some of them in critical condition. They were rushed to government hospitals in the area for treatment.
Bodies of the victims, most of which were dismembered, were being handed over to affected families on Saturday for performing their last rights.
Amritsar Police Commissioner S.S. Srivastava told the media that the whole situation was being assessed by the police after completion of rescue work late on Friday.
Punjab Police officials began the investigation early on Saturday into the man-made disaster.
The role of train driver, railway officials and local authorities, who gave permission for holding of the event close to the railway tracks, is being probed, police officials said.
Scores of people were roaming on the the railway tracks on Saturday morning to see the accident spot, with the police and local authorities failing to even cordon off the area.
Most of the dead and injured were standing on the railway tracks near the ground where the Ravana effigy was being burnt.
Eyewitnesses said the victims were either watching the burning of Ravana or were recording the event on their mobile.
Over 700 people were watching the huge Ravana effigy going up in flames amid exploding crackers at the Jora Phatak near Dhobi Ghat within Amritsar city when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train coming to Amritsar from Hoshiarpur came hurtling down around 7 p.m. It took just about 10-15 seconds for the train to pass — and leave behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.
People standing on the tracks did not realise that the train was approaching fast due to the noise of the firecrackers during the burning effigy. Srivastava said that 58 people were left dead and 72 have been rushed to hospitals in the city, adding that the toll could go up.
Wails and cries filled the air as people frantically looked for their near and dear ones. Severed bodies, including those of children, were lying at the accident site hours after the incident with angry people not allowing authorities to remove them.
Some people blamed Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur, who was the chief guest at the celebrations, saying her late arrival delayed the burning of the effigy by more than half an hour.
The state government has declared a state mourning on Saturday. All offices and educational institutions will remain closed as a mark of respect to those dying in the train tragedy.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who announced an immediate compensation of Rs 5 lakh each for the families of victims, is scheduled to visit Amritsar on Saturday.