Muzaffarnagar: At least 23-24 people have died and over 80 injured after 14 coaches of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express derailed in Uttar Pradesh this evening.
The accident took place around 5.46 pm in Khatauli in Muzaffarnagar, barely 100 kilometres from the national capital, New Delhi. The train was headed from Puri in Odisha to Haridwar in Uttarakhand. One coach rammed into a house on the sides of the tracks and two coaches climbed one over the other.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered an inquiry into the train derailment to ascertain its cause. “Strict action will be taken against any lapse,” the minister tweeted.
A team of the ATS of the police has been rushed to the accident site to conduct a preliminary inquiry. The team headed by DSP Anoop Singh will probe any terror angle into the rail accident. NDRF teams have also been rushed to the accident site. Authorities, however, maintain there has been nothing to suggest foul play in the accident.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath spoke to principal secretary (Home) Arvind Kumar and the Muzaffarnagar district magistrate (DM) and directed them to ensure prompt rescue and relief operations at Khatauli.
Forty people, many women and children have been admitted to nearby medical hospitals for treatment. The train had left Puri at 9 pm on Friday night and was to terminate at Haridwar at 9 pm. Cutters and cranes have been requisitioned to cut the mangled remains of the coaches and rescue people from inside.
Local residents of Khatauli town were the first ones to reach the passengers and pulled out the ones they could. A 40-year-old woman, one of the many rescued by residents, said she had occupied an upper berth. “There was a loud noise,” she said. The screams and cries for help followed. “I still can’t find my aunt,” the woman, in her late thirties said.
Local administration officials have reached the spot and rescue operations are underway, officials in Delhi said. Sub-Divisional Magistrate told media that about 50 people have been rescued so far.
The derailment is likely to affect movement of trains on the busy Northern Railway route. The Railways has announced a compensation of Rs. 3.5 lakh for the family of those killed, Rs. 50,000 for those seriously injured and Rs. 25,000 for people with minor injuries.
The accident comes less than a year after the Indore-Patna Express derailed near Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh in November last year, leaving over 100 dead.