The 'kanwarias' or devotees of Lord Shiva were walking along the tracks at Dhamara Ghat station after alighting from the Samastipur-Saharsa passenger when the Saharsa-Patna Rajya Rani Express travelling at 80 kmph, ran over them, a senior railway official said. Khagaria is about 160 km from Patna.
   
24 others admitted to hospital

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said that 37 persons, including women and children, were killed. Among them were 13 women, four children and 20 men. The victims hailed from
Khagaria, Sahrsa, Munger and Naughachia. 24 others who sustained injuries were admitted to the hospital.
   
Violent mob assaulted train driver

Soon after the incident at 8.40 am, a violent mob assaulted the train driver, set on fire an AC compartment and engine of another train, vandalized the station and even held a few rail staff hostage.
   
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Chief Minister appealed for calm. Railway Board Chairman Arunendra Kumar said that the express was not supposed to halt at Dhamara Ghat and was given clearance to pass through, but the pilgrims on the tracks thought they could stop the train.
   
Internal inquiry ordered

Though the driver applied the emergency brakes, it was too late by then, he said, adding an internal inquiry has been ordered into the accident.
   
The pilgrims were going to nearby Katyani Sthan temple to offer 'jalabhishek' to Lord Shiva on the fourth and final Monday of the holy month of Shrawan.
   
Superintendent of Police S K Jha said that the engine of the Samastipur-Saharsa passenger train and an AC coach of Saharsa-Patna Rajyarani Express were set on fire by enraged local people.
   
The two drivers of the express train, Rajaram Paswan and Sushil Kumar Suman, fled from the spot after being attacked. They later contacted railway officials to informing them that they were safe, ECR CPRO Amitabh Prabhakar said.

Prime Minister appeals for calm

The Prime Minister "appealed for calm in the area so that the relief and rescue operations can be carried out without any hindrance," a statement by PMO said.
   
The Prime Minister directed the Railway Ministry to deploy all available resources for rescue and relief operations, it said.
   
Minister of state for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the express was travelling at a speed of 80 km per hour when the accident occurred.
   
He said although relief trains carrying doctors and nurses were sent from Saharsha and Barauni, they could not reach the spot as the law and order situation there was not conducive because of protests by angry people.

Bihar CM announces compensation

The Bihar Chief Minister announced a compensation of Rs two lakh for family of each of the deceased and free medical treatment for the injured.
   
He ruled out lapse by the state administration. "Our officers from Khagaria and Saharsa districts have rushed to the accident site. It is a difficult area which could be reached only after three hours of walk from either of the district because of damage to a bridge and no road to the area," he said.
   
Kumar told reporters that he talked to Railway Minister Malliarjun Kharge and urged him to provide the maximum compensation to victims considering the fact that "this is a rarest of rare incident".

  (Agencies)

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Bihar train tragedy: Death toll reaches thirty five

 

Patna:  At least 35 Hindu pilgrims were killed and over a dozen injured on Monday when they were run over by a speeding train in Bihar's Khagaria district. Angry locals and pilgrims set ablaze six bogies of the train, brutally assaulted its driver and took several railway officials hostage.

 

Additional Director General of Police SK Bhardwaj confirmed the death of 35 Hindu pilgrims (Kanwariyas) when the Rajya Rani Express train mowed them down while they were trying to cross the rail track at the Dhamara railway station on the Saharsa-Mansi route of the East Central Railway (ECR).

 

The death toll may increase because detailed information is yet to come from the accident site, he said. The train was travelling from Saharsa to Patna when the accident took place between 8 am and 8.30 am. The express train does not have a scheduled stop at Dhamara station.

 

"The accident took place when pilgrims were trying to cross the railway track after alighting from a local train," he said. Soon after the incident, angry pilgrims and locals set ablaze six bogies, including one AC coach, of the train and attacked railway officials.

 

"Some angry people attacked the train driver and seriously injured him. They beat him up mercilessly. Besides, some railway officials have been held hostage by them," a police official said. Bhardwaj said top officials of the district administration have been asked to rush to the accident site. Chief Public Relations Officer of ECR, Amitabh Prabhakar said that the situation went nearly out of control at the railway station following the incident as hundreds of angry people began agitating. "The railway officials are not in a position to visit the accident site," he said, adding that there was a lot of ‘confusion’.

 

"It is difficult to say anything exact for now. It will take another one or two hours to say anything concrete after security forces are mobilized to clear the agitating people," he added.

 

In the month of Shravan (July-August), thousands of Hindu pilgrims visit a temple in Deoghar, Jharkhand, where they offer holy water from the Ganga river to Lord Shiva at an ancient temple.Kanwariya pilgrims in Bihar collect water from the Ganga in Sultanganj in Bhagalpur district. They carry this holy water in ‘kanwars’ (a single pole, usually of bamboo, with two water pots dangling from opposite ends) and cover 105 km on foot to reach the temple.

 

After offering the holy water, they return to their native places in vehicles or trains. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar expressed grief at the incident and asked railway officials to launch rescue operations and arrange proper treatment for the injured.