india-train
Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of the train derailment. JITENDRA PRAKASH / Reuters

Andah John with agency report

Police in India have confirmed the death of 119 people, with 150 injured following Sunday’s train crash in northern state of  Uttar Pradesh.

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The death toll was initially put at 60 with more than 80 injured.

Police said the toll could rise amid a scramble to locate survivors as people were still missing. But authorities have yet to determine what caused the derailment of 14 carriages of the train.

How it derailed

The train was traveling between the northeastern city of Patna and the central city of Indore. But suddenly, it rolled off the tracks in Pukhrayan, 65 km south of Kanpur city.

Authorities said they were checking the condition of the tracks but would need to look further before concluding the cause of the derailment.

It was another India’s deadliest rail tragedy since more than 140 died in a 2010 collision in West Bengal.

Desperate moment

A senior railway officer Pratap Rai said desperate survivors searched for family members while some tried to enter the damaged carriages. They were on a mission to rescue relatives and collect belongings.

“We are using every tactic to save lives but it’s very difficult to cut the metal carriages,” he said from the accident site.

Kanpur district magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma told Reuters that 119 people were confirmed dead, while 78 of the injured remained in hospital, four of them in a critical condition.

With rescue teams still looking for victims, the toll could rise to become India’s worst rail tragedy in this century.

A historical perspective

In what was probably India’s worst rail disaster, a train plunged off a bridge and into a river in 1981 in Bihar state. It killed an estimated 500 to 800 people.

India’s creaking railway system is the world’s fourth largest. It runs 11,000 trains a day, including 7,000 passenger trains carrying more than 20 million people.

But it has a poor safety record. This is based on thousands of people that have died in accidents every year, including in train derailments and collisions.

India’s railways minister Suresh Prabhu said in a tweet that the government would investigate the causes of the derailment. She also promised accountability with the “strictest possible action”, as well as compensation for the affected passengers.