At least 39 people killed as Indian train derails

Incident is latest disaster to hit the vast and crash-prone state railways

Rescue workers search for victims at the site of the derailment of the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar express train near Kuneru station in southern Andhra Pradesh state. Photograph:  AFP/Getty Images

Rescue workers search for victims at the site of the derailment of the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar express train near Kuneru station in southern Andhra Pradesh state. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

At least 39 people were killed and 50 injured when nine coaches of a passenger train derailed in eastern India in the latest disaster to hit the vast and crash-prone state railways.

The Hirakhand express train from Jagdalpur to Bhubaneswar derailed at about 11.20pm on Saturday night near Kuneri station, in the state of Andhra Pradesh, about 30km from the town of Rayagada.

The reason for the derailment has not been ascertained, said JP Mishra, the chief public relations officer at East Coast Railway, adding that they were not ruling out the possibility of foul play and investigations will be conducted. The area in which the incident occurred is one where Maoist rebels typically operate.

Video footage from the scene showed members of the disaster management team and locals trying to rescue trapped passengers from windows and debris using phones to provide light.

“We will take strict action against whoever is behind this act,” said Indian railways minister Suresh Prabhu. “We won’t spare anyone responsible for this accident.”

Nine bogies were derailed of which three fell off the track, said a local police spokesman, adding that most of the casualties and deaths were from the three sleeper-class compartments.

India’s state railways, built during British colonial rule, have an appalling safety record after decades of underinvestment and a priority on keeping fares low for the 23 million passengers who use the network every day.

In the last serious incident, 150 people died when a train derailed late last year in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. India recorded 27,581 railway deaths in 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available, with most victims falling from, or being struck by, moving trains.

Reuters