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India: Several killed in train collision in West Bengal

June 17, 2024

A goods train crashed into a passenger train in India's West Bengal state, killing several with more injured. Rescue operations are underway.

Onlookers watch as rescuers work after a cargo train rammed into Kanchanjunga Express, a passenger train, near New Jalpaiguri station, West Bengal state, India, Monday, June 17, 2024
Several carriages were derailed in the incidentImage: Diptendu Dutta/AP Photo/picture alliance

A cargo train collided with a passenger train in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal on Monday, killing at least 15 people and injuring several others, local police reported.

Senior police official Abhishek Royin told the Reuters news agency that at least 15 bodies have been pulled from the mangled carriages.

Images broadcast on Indian media showed the wreckage of derailed carriages following the incident in the Phansidewa area of Darjeeling district. One carriage had been thrust dangerously high into the air, balancing on another one.

What we know about the crash

"Doctors, ambulances and disaster teams have been rushed to the site for rescue, recovery, medical assistance," State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee shared on X.

The Kanchanjunga Express train was on the way to Sealdah station in the state capital Kolkata from the northeastern state of Tripura, and the accident occurred near the New Jalpaiguri station.

The daily train is popular among tourists traveling to the hilly hotspot of Darjeeling which offers visitors a cooling escape from summer heat.

Railway authorities said the cargo train overshot a signal before it rammed into the passenger train. Three of the four derailed compartments of the passenger train were carrying cargo, the other was carrying passengers, Northeast Frontier Railway spokesperson Sabyasachi De said.

"We have confirmation of seven deaths and 39 passengers admitted at a local hospital with various injuries," local police officer Iftikar-Ul-Hassan told AFP news agency.

Rescue operations underway

Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered condolences in a post on X. "I pray that the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to officials and took stock of the situation. Rescue operations are underway to assist the affected," he said.

Indian Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw shared on X that the injured were being transported to a hospital, and senior officials had reached the site.

"We just saw the bodies of a dead driver and a guard. Their bodies were taken out. Some more bodies may be under the crash site, but we don't yet know for sure," Rajesh Kumar Singh from the Railway Protection Force told AFP.

Train accidents are common in India's rail network, which is one of the largest in the world. More than 14,000 trains transport over 12 million people across India every day.

Recently, authorities have started investing in upgrading the system with better stations and electronic signal systems. But accidents continue to be frequent.

In June last year, nearly 300 people died when three trains collided. Most accidents are a result of human error or faulty signaling.

kb,tg/ab (AFP, AP, Reuters)