|The mangled coaches of Gorakhdham Express at Churaib station. (AFP)
Lucknow, May 26: At least 22 passengers were killed when a speeding express crashed into a waiting goods train from behind near Gorakhpur today, with preliminary accounts suggesting signalling error as the cause.
The Hisar-Gorakhpur Gorakhdham Express was running at 80kmph when it rammed into the goods train barely 45km from its destination, causing the engine and six coaches next to it to first derail and one of them to climb onto the goods train.
The two drivers of the superfast express were among the dead in the accident that occurred around 10.35am when the train was passing Churaib station in Uttar Pradesh.
The station master of Churaib, responsible for the signalling lapse, is absconding, as is the driver of the stationary goods train.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who learnt about the accident in the middle of preparations for his swearing-in, asked Union cabinet secretary Ajit Seth to supervise the relief operations.
“My condolences to families of those who lost their lives in the Gorakhdham Express tragedy. Prayers with the injured,” Modi tweeted.
President Pranab Mukherjee and outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also expressed grief at the tragedy, as did Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
At the accident site, officials said the casualties could go up as many of the more than 100 injured passengers were in serious condition.
Most of those who died were in the three unreserved coaches — including one reduced to a mass of mangled metal — next to the engine, the officials said.
Bharat Lal, the Sant Kabirnagar district magistrate who was at the spot and oversaw rescue operations, said at least 20 passengers had died.
Most of the injured have been admitted to hospitals in Gorakhpur and Basti, over 30km away.
Some of the passengers alleged delay in rescue and relief and said many had died from bleeding on the spot. Railway Board chairman Arunendra Kumar denied the claims.
The railways announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the families of the dead.