- 60 killed as speeding train crushes people watching Dussehra event
- Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to visit accident site in Amritsar
- Ravana effigy was being burnt less than 100 metres from the railway track
Dazzling lights and the sound of firecrackers exploding prevented people from noticing a train bearing down on them at breakneck speed during an ill-fated Dussehra event in Amritsar on Friday evening, a video of the incident showed. By the time a few turned their attention towards the railway track they were standing on, it was already too late.
Navjot Kaur Sidhu, Congress leader and wife of Cricketer-turned-Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, was the chief guest at the event. She has denied leaving the scene of the tragedy after the accident, which reportedly claimed 60 lives.
The video shows an open ground almost completely covered in darkness, save for a towering pillar of fire formed due to the burning of Ravana's effigy and the lit screens of numerous cellphones busy taking photographs. Crackers continue to burst continuously, drowning out every other sound -- including that of the approaching train.
The train from Pathankot enters the frame almost 30 seconds into the clip, and for a split moment, it appears as if the spectators are too shocked to have grasped the enormity of the tragedy that has unravelled before them. Realisation dawns soon after, and they scramble to the aid of the injured.
In the backdrop, firecrackers continue to burst.
The authorities have confirmed that 60 people were killed in the incident. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ordered all government and private hospitals in the region to stay open, and said he would reach Amritsar to personally supervise relief and rescue efforts. "My government will give Rs 5 lakh to the kin of each deceased and free treatment for the injured in government and private hospitals. District authorities have been mobilised on a war footing," he tweeted. National leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi, expressed their condolences too.
A Northern Railways official said the effigy was being burnt less than 100 metres from the railway track.