More than 100 die in Indian rail crash

Race to find survivors in mangled wreck of express train

Emergency workers raced to find survivors yesterday in the mangled wreckage of an Indian express train that derailed overnight, killing more than 100 people, in the worst disaster to hit the country’s ageing rail network in years.

Many were sleeping when 14 carriages leapt from the tracks in a remote area of Uttar Pradesh state, and shocked passengers recalled being jolted out of their slumber by a violent thud.

“I woke up suddenly around 3.10 am and felt a tremor. The train came to a screeching halt,” survivor Yaqoob Ahmed told the Hindustan Times newspaper from a hospital in the nearby city of Kanpur.

“All of a sudden, I was crushed under a crowd of people . . . everyone was screaming for help.”

Survivors told of their desperate search for loved ones on the train, which was carrying at least one wedding party with the marriage season in India in full swing.

Hundreds of army and police personnel have been deployed at the scene, where rescue workers used gas-powered metal cutters to slice through severely mangled coaches to try to get to survivors.

“We have been able to pull out 24 people,out of which five were found to be alive,”Brigadier A Chhibbar, who is leading thea rm y ’s rescue operations, said.“We will carry on day and night whilethere is any inkling of even a single personbeing pulled out alive.”

Police said more than 100 people had been killed and 150 were injured and rushed to nearby hospitals, which had been placed on high alert after the early morning disaster.

It is the worst disaster since 2010 when a passenger train crashed into a freight train in the eastern state of West Bengal, killing 146 and injuring more than 200.

Authorities have launched an official investigation into the accident, which junior railways minister Manoj Sinha said may have been caused by damage to the tracks.

India’s railway network, one of the world’s largest, is still the main form of long-distance travel in the vast country, but it is poorly funded, and deadly accidents occur relatively frequently.

A 2012 government report said almost 15 000 people were killed every year on India’s railways.

Nitika Trivedi, a student who boarded the train with her family, said images of the victims’ bodies would long haunt her.

“I had never seen anything like this in my life before. I am shaken to the core,” she said.

Anxious relatives thronged the station in Indore in central India where the train originated, many clutching pictures of their lovedones, and railway officials said special trains had been deployed for stranded travellers.

“We are also trying to clear the tracks and complete the restoration work as quickly as possible,” Vijay Kumar, a spokesman for north-central railways, said.

Media reports said the train was packed with families, some of them travelling home for weddings.

Bride-to-be Ruby Gupta, who survived the accident with a fractured arm, was desperately searching for her father.

“I have been looking everywhere for him,” she told the Press Trust of India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has pledged to invest $137-billion (R1.9-trillion) over five years to modernize the country’s crumbling railways, making them safer, faster and more efficient.

Yesterday, Modi tweeted that he was “anguished beyond words” by the loss of life inthe latest accident.

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