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At least 58 killed when speeding train plows through crowd at religious festival in India

At least 58 killed when speeding train plows through crowd at religious festival in India
People and police gather at the site of a deadly train accident in Amritsar, India. (Raminder Pal Singh / EPA/Shutterstock)

A speeding train ran over a crowd watching fireworks during a religious festival in northern India on Friday, killing at least 58 people and injuring dozens more, police said.

The accident occurred on the outskirts of Amritsar, a city in Punjab state, about 300 miles north of New Delhi.

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The Press Trust of India news agency said two trains arrived from opposite directions on separate tracks at the same time, giving little opportunity for people to escape. The casualties were caused by one of the trains, it quoted officials as saying.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was extremely saddened by the accident. "Have asked officials to provide immediate assistance that is required," Modi said on Twitter.

A witness said the train didn't even sound its whistle as it sped past the site, where hundreds were watching the burning of an effigy of the demon Ravana during the Hindu festival of Dussehra.

"Why did authorities allow the fireworks display so close to the railroad track?" he asked. He told the Republic television channel that he lost two brothers.

Another witness said the victims didn't realize that a train was coming because the fireworks were too loud.

Navjot Kaur Siddhu, a local politician who was the chief guest at the religious function, said the celebrations take place in the area every year and railroad authorities are alerted to run the trains at slow speeds.

A large number of people live in the area with homes on both sides of the railroad tracks, she said.

However, junior railways minister Manoj Sinha said after visiting the accident site that organizers did not alert railroad authorities about their plan to hold a religious function there.

Shatrughan Das, an injured 35-year-old factory worker, said he was sitting close to the railroad tracks watching the fireworks. "I didn't see the train coming. I fell unconscious. I saw the police taking me to a hospital as I regained consciousness."

Following the accident, people rushed to the site and shouted at railway officials for not taking precautions.

At least 50 injured were admitted to a government-run hospital, the Press Trust of India news agency quoted Rajesh Sharma, a magistrate, as saying.

While accidents are relatively common on India's sprawling rail network, Friday's was among the deadliest in recent years. In 2016, 146 people were killed when a train slid off tracks in eastern India.

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