Train crashes in northern India as new PM Modi takes office | News | DW | 26.05.2014
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Train crashes in northern India as new PM Modi takes office

Police have said that a train crash in India killed 40 people and injured at least 100 more. A passenger locomotive smashed into a stationary freight train. Incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued his condolences.

Senior police officer Amrendra Sainger said on Monday that 40 people were feared dead after the Gorakhdham Express passenger train collided with a stationary locomotive sitting on the tracks near a railway station in Uttar Pradesh state.

Six cars on the express train derailed. Authorities were reportedly searching for the station master, who disappeared after the accident in Sant Kabir Nagar, about 220 kilometers (140 miles) southeast of the state capital, Lucknow.

Railway official Alok Kumar said the train's driver and assistant were both in a critical condition.

Accidents are comparatively common on India's rail network, with about 20 million people riding each day on a fleet of around 11,000 trains. Most crashes are blamed on either poor maintenance or human error.

Incoming Prime Minister Narendra Modi, set to be sworn in on Monday after his general election triumph, expressed his condolences on Twitter after the crash.

Modi later said that he had spoken to India's most senior civil servant, Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth, asking him to "take an overview of the situation and ensure timely assisstance to those who need it."

Regional leaders attend inauguration

For the first time in India's history, the country invited regional leaders to attend Modi's inauguration at New Delhi's presidential palace. Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was among those in attendance, saying Modi taking office was a "great opportunity" for the uneasy neighbors, both nuclear powers. Pakistan and Sri Lanka both agreed to free hundreds of Indian fishermen, arrested for straying into their neighbors' territorial waters, as a gesture of goodwill following their invitations.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai also traveled to the Indian capital, with the ceremony due to begin at 6 p.m. local time (1230 UTC).

Modi, whose Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the ruling Nehru-Gandhi dynasty's India National Congress from power in India's mammoth general elections, has so far pledged to streamline the country's government. Modi said on Sunday that he would appoint "super ministers" in charge of several departments, part of a bid to make the various ministries coordinate better.

msh/hc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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