At least 142 people were killed and 200 injured when the Indore-Patna Express derailed near the city of Kanpur in North India on early Sunday morning. The train was packed with more than 2,000 passengers and going at 100 kph, when it flew off the tracks at 3.10am, leading to the derailment of 14 coaches.
The high death toll was in part due to unsuspecting sleeping passengers. Two coaches, S2 and S3, bore the brunt of the derailment.
Zaki Ahmad, a police official of the Kanpur zone, told the Agence France-Presse news agency, “The death toll has reached 120. At least 200 others are injured.”
More than 200 injured passengers were provided emergency medical help or rushed to nearby hospitals. Video footage showed the coaches lying broken and capsized as anxious crowds looked on, some with bandaged limbs.
Ambulances took longer than usual to arrive at the site because the accident took place in a rural area. Medical trains from Jhansi were dispatched in a relief effort and cranes were sent to lift the crushed carriages. National Disaster Response Force and army units used gas cutters to find survivors on Sunday morning, as hopes of rescuing people alive diminished.
A senior railway official, Pratap Rai, said, “We are using every tactic to save lives, but it’s very difficult to cut the metal carriages.”
Ruby Gupta, a passenger, travelling to Azamgarh for her wedding, was frantically searching for her father. “I cannot find my father and I have been looking everywhere for him, some people told me to look in hospitals and in morgues, but I am clueless as to what to do.” She lost her wedding clothes and other belongings. “I do not know if my marriage will go as planned or not,” she said. “I want to find my father now”.
An elderly man said: “At about 3am, the train started shaking. Then I don’t know what happened. The carriage overturned. We were trying to open the door of the coach, but it wouldn’t budge. Somehow we managed to get out.”
While some searched for lost relatives or luggage, others waited in the fields nearby as rescue workers searched for survivors and bodies.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated he was “anguished beyond words” and declared that the families of the victims would receive 200,000 rupees as compensation. Injured people can claim 50,000 rupees from government relief funds.
Anil Saxena, a railways spokesman, said to The Guardian that accidents were usually caused by “poor maintenance of infrastructure at stations and failure to take appropriate precautionary measures against flash floods, landslides, boulders falling, etc”.
Saxena said the Government of India would launch a “zero-accident mission” for the railway.
“We have formed an action plan and a roadmap which we will implement to achieve this,” he said.