PUKHRAYAN, India (AP) — Rescuers finished searching the last of 14 mangled train carriages that derailed in northern India, killing at least 127 people and leaving about 150 more injured, police said early Monday.
The passenger train was about midway through a 27-hour journey between the cities of Indore and Patna when it slid off the tracks at 3:10 a.m. Sunday, jolting awake passengers who had settled in to sleep.
The impact was so strong that one of the coaches landed on top of another, crushing the one below. Passengers said they heard the crash as they were flung from their beds.
“There was a loud sound like an earthquake. I fell from my berth and a lot of luggage fell over me,” Ramchandra Tewari, who suffered a head injury, said from his hospital bed in the city of Kanpur. “I thought I was dead, and then I passed out.”
Rescue workers, soldiers and members of India’s disaster management force worked through the night to pull out people trapped amid the twisted metal and overturned coaches near Pukhrayan, a village outside the industrial city of Kanpur about 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of New Delhi.
Rescuers used cutting torches to pry open cars and cranes to lift coaches from the tracks, moving carefully to prevent any cars from toppling over and injuring those trapped inside.
By Monday morning, they had searched the last of the 14 wrecked cars, finding several more bodies that took the death toll to at least 127, Indian broadcaster NDTV quoted police Director-General Daljeet Chaudhary as saying.
Roughly 150 others were injured. Medical teams provided first aid near the site, while the more seriously injured were moved to hospitals in Kanpur, including 72 in serious condition, Chaudhary said.
Anxious relatives searched for their family members among the injured and the dead at hospitals in Kanpur.
Rail authorities ordered an investigation into what caused the derailment. Some told local media they suspected faulty tracks.
“We haven’t seen an incident like this in Indian Railways for a long time,” said the state’s railways minister, Rajen Gohain, according to the Indian Express newspaper. “There must be a fault in the track as 14 bogeys have derailed, and this happened despite regular checking of the tracks.”
Accidents are relatively common on India’s sprawling rail network, which is the world’s third largest but lacks modern signaling and communication systems. Most accidents are blamed on poor maintenance, outdated equipment and human error.
The nation’s railway minister, Suresh Prabhu, said a special train was taking uninjured passengers from the derailed train to Patna, according to the PTI news agency. He said thousands of food packets, water bottles and cups of tea were being provided to the stranded passengers.
The Patna-Indore Express Train derailing was one of India’s deadliest train accidents in at least five years.
According to an Indian government report in 2012, about 15,000 people are killed every year in train accidents. The worst occurred in 1981, when a passenger train fell into the Baghmati River in northern India, killing nearly 800 people.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi — who said in a Twitter post that he was “anguished beyond words” by Sunday’s accident — had pledged last year to invest $137 billion over the next five years to modernize India’s railway network, which is used by about 23 million passengers a day.
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