Up to 15 reported killed in Indian train collision

The incident is the latest to hit India’s creaking rail network, which carries millions of passengers each day.

Onlookers watch as rescuers work after a cargo train rammed into Kanchanjunga Express
Rescuers work after a cargo train rammed into a passenger train near New Jalpaiguri station, West Bengal state, India [AP Photo/Diptendu Dutta]

As many as 15 people have been killed and dozens injured after a freight train collided with a passenger train in India’s West Bengal state.

The cargo train hit the Kanchanjunga Express in the Darjeeling district of the eastern state on Monday morning. Initial reports suggest that the cause of the accident was human error. India’s busy railways record hundreds of accidents every year.

At least 15 bodies have been pulled from the mangled carriages, Abhishek Roy, a senior police official in the eastern state’s district of Darjeeling, the site of the accident, told the Reuters news agency.

INTERACTIVE-INDIA-TRAIN-COLLISION

Nearly 30 people were injured and rescue teams from the police and national disaster response force were working with doctors and residents of the area to clear debris from the derailed carriages, Roy added.

Sabyasachi De, the spokesperson of the Northeast Frontier Railway, said three of the dead were railway personnel.

Doctors, ambulances and disaster teams were dispatched to the site of the crash, which occurred close to the New Jalpaiguri station, West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on X.

“Action on war-footing initiated,” she said. Labelling the incident as “tragic”, she did not offer immediate confirmation of casualties.

TV pictures showed one train rammed into the end of the other, with one compartment rising vertically in the air. Swarms of people had gathered at the spot, where rescuers were searching for victims.

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the injured were being taken to hospital.

Deadly

The accident happened after the driver of the freight train disregarded a signal and hit the rear end of the express train, Jaya Varma Sinha, the head of the railway board that runs the countrywide network, told reporters.

Four compartments at the rear of the passenger train went off the rails due to the impact, most of which were carrying cargo while one was a passenger coach, according to De, the railway spokesperson.

More than 12 million people ride 14,000 trains across India daily, travelling on a network of 64,000km (40,000 miles).

In recent years India has invested huge sums to upgrade the network with modern stations and electronic signalling systems. However, despite the push to improve rail safety, several hundred accidents happen annually, most blamed on human error or outdated signalling equipment.

Last year, a train crash in eastern India killed at least 280 people in one of the country’s deadliest rail crashes in decades.

The Kanchanjunga Express is a daily train that connects West Bengal with other cities in the northeast of India. It is often used by tourists who travel to the hill station of Darjeeling, popular at this time of year when several Indian cities are sweltering in the heat.

Source: News Agencies