Hyderabad: At least 25 people were killed and dozens injured when an express train hit a stationary goods train in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh in the early hours of Tuesday, officials said.
The accident occurred at Penukonda in Anantapur district, south of Hyderabad, when the Hampi Express from Bellary to Bengaluru in neighbouring Karnataka state hit the stationary goods train.
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Rescuers worked for about six hours to pull some 70 survivors from the twisted and smoldering wreckage near the southwestern border of Andhra Pradesh state.
Victims on fire
Medical workers brought drinking water to traumatized survivors at the scene, while mothers cried for help in finding their lost children. Witnesses reported seeing victims on fire.
"When the train stopped with a loud bang, I got down to see burning passengers crying for help," Munijayendra, a 25-year-old marketing executive who goes by one name, told Press Trust of India. "The worst part is we were helpless, as the heat was just unbearable."
At least 40 people were hospitalised with injuries, with about 10 in critical condition, local police chief Charu Sinha said.
Anantapur district collector Durga Das said four coaches of the train were derailed when the driver — on spotting the goods train a few metres away — applied the emergency brakes.
Fire also broke out in one of the coaches. “The victims include three children,” he said.
“We have already rescued 18 people from the damaged coaches and are searching for the others,” he said.
Fire also broke out in one of the damaged coaches, leading to deaths due to burns and suffocation. “We are trying to identify the bodies to hand them over to the families,” Durga Das said.
The divisonal railway manager Mani Kumar said that a wrong signal led to the accident. “The probe is on and stringent action will be taken against the guilty,” he said.
"It appears that the driver of the passenger train overshot a signal and hit the goods train, but we are awaiting the results of an inquiry," said Chandralekha Mukherjee, director for information at the railways ministry in New Delhi.
"Every life is precious. This is a very sad incident," said Railway Minister Mukul Roy who arrived at the site of the accident on Tuesday afternoon.
He promised compensation for the injured and families of the dead.
The train was allegedly given a green signal to go on the same line on which the goods train was stationed.
Rescue and relief teams have rushed to the scene. The injured have been admitted to local hospitals and three critically injured were rushed to Super Specialty Hospital at Puttaparthy in the same district.
— With inputs from AFP