15 killed and dozens injured as goods train collides with passenger express in India

15 killed and dozens injured as goods train collides with passenger express in India

At least 15 people were killed in India’s eastern state of West Bengal after a goods train collided with a passenger express on Monday, officials said.

Another 25 people have been injured in the accident in Darjeeling district, police officials said.

The collision took place after the goods train smashed into the rear of the stationary passenger Kanchanjunga Express, which was on its way to Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal, from the northeastern city of Agartala. The crash caused three carriages of the passenger train to go off the rails.

At least 15 bodies have been pulled from the mangled carriages, said Abhishek Roy, a senior police official in Darjeeling.

The deceased include the driver and the guard of the passenger train, officials said.

The collision was likely caused by the disregard of a signal given to the train driver before moving forward on the track, senior Indian railway officials said, adding that he was instructed to stop.

“Prima facie suggests human error as the cause. The first indications suggest that this is a case of signal disregard," said Jaya Varma Sinha, the chairperson and CEO of Indian Railway Board.

West Bengal’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee said state authorities have initiated action on war-footing.

"Shocked to learn, just now, about a tragic train accident, in the Phansidewa area of Darjeeling district," Ms Banerjee said in a post on X, adding that further details were awaited.

"Doctors, ambulances and disaster teams have been rushed to the site for rescue, recovery, and medical assistance. Action on war-footing initiated," she said.

Preliminary photos and videos of the collision showed a pile-up of train compartments, with one nearly vertical in the air. Several rescue workers and locals were seen around at the accident site.

More people are feared trapped inside the mangled train compartments, railway officials said, but more details are not available immediately.

Local residents of the area heard a loud sound and saw the pile-up when they got to the site.

Prime minister Narendra Modi condoled the victims of the collision and announced a compensation of £1890 each to the families of the dead and £472 to the injured.

“The railway accident in West Bengal is saddening. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones. I pray that the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to officials and took stock of the situation. Rescue operations are underway to assist the affected. The Railways Minister Shri @AshwiniVaishnaw Ji is on the way to the site of the mishap as well,” he said.

Indian railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said: “Unfortunate accident in NFR zone. Rescue operations going on at war footing. Railways, NDRF and SDRF are working in close coordination. Injured are being shifted to the hospital. Senior officials have reached the site.”

This is the second such fatal collision reported in India since last June. About 288 people died a year ago in the country’s worst rail crash in more than two decades in the neighbouring state of Odisha, caused by a signal failure.

The Kanchanjunga Express is a daily train that connects West Bengal state with other cities in the northeast. It is often used by tourists who travel to the hill station of Darjeeling, popular at this time of year when several Indian cities are sweltering in the heat.

More than 12 million people ride 14,000 trains across India daily, traveling on 64,000km (40,000 miles) of track. Despite government efforts to improve rail safety, several hundred accidents happen annually on India’s railways. Most are blamed on human error or outdated signaling equipment.