India train: Rescuers end search for survivors at crash site

Rescue works continue at the site of an accident where coaches of an Indore-Patna Express train derailed off the tracks, near Pukhrayan area, in Kanpur, India, 21 November 2016. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Rescuers have been pulling out debris with machines and crowbars

Rescue workers have called off the search for survivors in the wreckage of the train that derailed in India's northern Uttar Pradesh state, according to police.

At least 142 people died when the Indore-Patna Express came off the rails at 03:00 local time on Sunday (21:30 GMT Saturday), near the city of Kanpur.

The railway ministry has listed 180 of the more than 200 people injured.

The cause of the crash is unknown, but some reports point to a fractured rail.

Not all of the victims have been identified yet, leaving relatives to search for missing family members at nearby hospitals and at the crash site. At least 58 people are said to be in critical condition.

Train accidents are fairly common in India, where much of the rail infrastructure and rolling stock is out of date, but Sunday's crash was the deadliest in 14 years.

Why do India's trains keep going off the rails?

In pictures: Train derailment

'Mangled beyond recognition' - Zubair Ahmed, BBC Hindi, Indore-Patna Express crash site

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Luggage and clothes are strewn all over the train tracks

Hundreds took part in the rescue operation, using machines to cut through the mangled metal or using their bare hands to remove the debris, as police held back curious onlookers from nearby villages.

Two carriages were completely smashed up beyond recognition. Several other carriages were hanging off the tracks precariously.

Personal effects of passengers - bags, clothes, water bottles - were strewn all over the place. I saw a woman's red dress hanging off the roof of a carriage.

Two giant cranes tried to remove carriages that had already been cleared of bodies, but it proved difficult due to the heavy damage. I saw one carriage that was being lifted up suddenly fall to the ground - the crane could not handle it properly.

Late on Monday, rescue crews lifted the last of 14 wrecked cars from the tracks. No other bodies were found underneath the wreckage.

Zaki Ahmed, the police inspector general in Kanpur, confirmed the rescue operations were over.

A spokesman for the railway added: "The rail line has been cleared and some restoration work is on. The line will be fit for traffic in few hours from now."

The crash happened on one of India's busiest rail junctions. According to the Indian Express the carriages were outdated. The report said the government had promised earlier this year to upgrade all trains.

A railway spokesperson also noted the train had been carrying far more passengers that it was supposed to.

Although the official number of passengers on board was about 1,200, the Times of India said as many as another 500 could have been on the train without tickets, citing unnamed railway officials as sources.

Passengers, most of who were sleeping at the time of the crash, described horrific scenes.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Some carriages were piled up on top of one another
Image copyright EPA
Image caption The carriages were badly mangled
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Anxious relatives of missing passengers have reached the scene and are trying to identify luggage

One survivor, Ravish Kumar told the BBC, he was jolted awake when the the train suddenly stopped: "My cousin and I were sleeping in a different coach than my family. This decision saved our lives.

"We woke up when the train suddenly stopped and we all fell on the floor of the coach. I went out and saw the coach my family was in had broken into three pieces.

"Five members of family - including my mother, sister, uncle and grandmother - died in the accident."

Another man from Patna said he spotted a hand sticking out in the debris wearing a ring which he recognised as his brother's.

"I'm certain that it's my brother's body but it's not been removed yet," he told the BBC.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who expressed his condolences, promised compensation to the victims' relatives and injured passengers, and said he had spoken to Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu.

On his own Twitter account, Mr Prabhu warned that "strictest possible action will be taken against those who could be responsible for accident".

India's vast rail network

The world's third longest by track

22 million

passenger journeys per day


railway related deaths in 2014

  • 115,000km of track; 7,112 stations

  • 1.3 million staff in 2014-15

  • $25bn revenue in 2014-15

  • 5.29 times more likely to die on the road than the railways


India's worst rail disasters

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Gaisal crash in 1999 killed at least 290 people

Bihar, 6 Jun 1981: 250 deaths confirmed as passenger train derails on a bridge and plunges into the Baghmati river. Hundreds more are never found, with an estimated death toll ranging from 500 to 800

Firozabad, 20 Aug 1995: 358 people are killed as an express train hits a stationary express train

Khanna, 26 Nov 1998: At least 212 killed as a train collides with a derailed train

Gaisal, Assam, 2 Aug 1999: At least 290 killed as two trains carrying a total of 2,500 people collide

Rafiganj, 10 Sept 2002: Rajdhani Express derails on bridge, killing at least 130

West Midnapore, West Bengal, 28 May 2010: The Calcutta-Mumbai passenger train derails, killing at least 100. Police blame Maoist sabotage of the track

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