Death toll from India train crash hits 23: Officials

AFP , Tuesday 27 May 2014

The death toll from a train crash in northern India rose to 23 after more bodies were recovered from inside mangled passenger carriages, officials said Tuesday.

The passenger express was travelling to Gorakhpur city in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh on Monday morning when it ploughed into a stationary freight train at a local station.

"At least 23 people are confirmed dead and 44 are injured. The toll is expected to rise," Indian Railways spokesman Anil Kumar Saxena told AFP.

Emergency and medical teams worked into the night Monday to prise open the carriages to reach the dead and injured but were hampered by a lack of specialist equipment, an official said.

"The railways were slow in responding to rescue efforts. They did not even have proper tools needed for the rescue operation," said local administrator Arvind Diwedi from Sant Kabir Nagar, the nearest town to the accident site.

"No more passengers are trapped inside. The injured were taken to hospitals in Gorakhpur and Khalilabad districts," Diwedi said.

Six carriages were derailed in the crash. They piled on top of one another or toppled onto their sides in fields, as police and rescue workers tried to find ways inside.

The Gorakhdham Express travelling from Hisar city smashed into the freight train at Chureb station in Khalilabad, 700 kilometres (430 miles) east of New Delhi.

Indian Railways has announced an investigation into the cause of the crash and additional compensation for the victims.

India's railway network, one of the world's largest, is still the main form of long-distance travel in the vast country. But the network is poorly funded and deadly accidents are frequent.

In January a fire tore through a train full of sleeping passengers outside Mumbai, killing nine people and forcing survivors to break open doors to escape.

Weeks earlier, a fire on board a train in the southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh killed 26 people.

Last August a high-speed train ploughed into a crowd of Hindu pilgrims as they tried to cross tracks in the eastern state of Bihar, killing 37.

In 2012 a government report said almost 15,000 people were killed every year on India's railways, describing the deaths as an annual "massacre" due mainly to poor safety standards.

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