At least 60 people celebrating Dussehra were killed after a train ran over hundreds standing on a railway track in Amritsar on Friday evening. Many among them included children and women.
The tragedy has also left an uncertain future for many families. "My child had left for the first time to celebrate Dusshera. He will never return now. We don't have any support," mother of one of the dead said.
Few metres from her, a woman is coming to terms with the loss of her 3-year-old daughter. "We came to know at 7 am. Her 3-year-old daughter died on way to the hospital. She had suffered injuries on her head," said a woman accompanying the lady. Her husband and her son are undergoing treatment at the hospital, she added.
More such horrid stories of the accident emerged as relatives of the dead gathered outside the hospital. Dalbir Singh had just finished playing Ravana at the event and and was walking towards Joda Phatak to get a better view of the fireworks, when he saw a train approaching the crowd who were standing on tracks to watch the Dussehra festivities. Before he could raise an alarm, Mr Singh was crushed under the train.
"For more than 20 years, people from adjoining villages gather at the vacant plot at Joda Phatak, barely 50 metres from railway tracks, to watch the celebrations," said Sawan Kaur, the mother of Dalbir Singh. His wife, also in her twenties, sat next to the mother with her eight-month-old cradled in her arms, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I appeal to the government to provide a job to my daughter-in law," news agency ANI quoted Sawan Kaur.
Doctors at Civil Hospital and Guru Nanak Hospital said 32 bodies have been identified. It will take time to identify more bodies as they have been cut into pieces by the metal wheels of the fast-moving train, they said.
Over 700 people watching the huge Ravana effigy going up in flames amid exploding crackers when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train coming to Amritsar from Hoshiarpur came hurtling down around 7 p.m.
It took just about 10-15 seconds for the train to pass -- and leave behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies.
People standing on the tracks did not realise that the train was approaching fast due to the noise of the firecrackers during the burning effigy.
A Northern Railways official said the effigy was being burnt less than 100 metres from the railway tracks. "Ravan effigy was being burnt 70-80 m from the gate, when the effigy fell, people present there ran towards the railway track, at the time a train was passing and level crossing there was shut," the official said.