40 of those killed in Amritsar mishap identified, 36 bodies cremated

An angry crowd shout slogans as they sit by bodies of victims of a train accident in Amritsar India Friday Oct. 19 2018.                        Prabhjot Gill  AP

An angry crowd shout slogans as they sit by bodies of victims of a train accident in Amritsar India Friday Oct. 19 2018. Prabhjot Gill AP

Sixty-one people celebrating Dussehra were killed after a train ran over hundreds standing on a railway track in Amritsar on Friday evening. Dalbir had played Ravana in the Ramleela that day.Amid outpouring of grief, the remains of 39 of the 59 victims, including children, were consigned to flames at different cremation grounds in the city on Saturday.

Witnesses report several children among the victims, and rescue operations are now underway, as police and volunteers search for bodies under the debris.

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh called off a trip to Israel and rushed to visit the injured in hospital, where he ordered a magisterial inquiry into the incident.

"Very very sad to learn about the unfortunate rail incident in Amritsar during Dussehra festivities", Banerjee wrote on Twitter.

The Prime Minister also announced ₹2 lakh compensation each to the families of the dead and ₹50,000 each to the injured.

But Kaur, whose husband, Navjyot Singh Sidhu, is a former Indian Test cricketer and now a state minister, said effigies were burnt at six places in Amritsar and majority were in fields near the tracks.

"The effigy was burnt and I had just left the site when the tragedy happened".

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"The event was organised by Mithu Madan's family, whose mother is a Congress councillor in the area".

He also defended his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was accused of leaving the accident site without bothering about the victims.

Another witness said the victims didn't realize that a train was coming because the fireworks were too loud. Navjot Singh Sidhu, her husband, rubbished the allegations. Railway officials refused to comment on whether this procedure was followed this time.

Railway authorities clarified that the organisers had not taken any permission from them to burn the effigy near the tracks.

The accident has claimed 61 lives so far out of which 39 bodies have been identified by the authorities. However, the service remains poorly funded and accidents are relatively common.

Women mourn the death of their relatives after a commuter train traveling at high speed ran through a crowd of people on the rail tracks on Friday, outside a hospital in Amritsar, India, October 20, 2018. Ten mail/express trains and 27 passenger trains were cancelled.

Padam Singh Dhingra, a businessman, said the event was supposed to begin at 6:15 PM. Chairman of the Railway Board Ashwani Lohani said in a statement that the accident occurred at a midsection between the Amritsar and Manawala stations and not at a level crossing. The municipal corporation said that it had granted no permission for the function, the venue was big enough to hold only around 200 people, but more than 2,000 were present. "There was no motive", he said, adding the incident was an irreparable loss.

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