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Mumbai, May 8, 2020
At least 16 migrant workers, who had set out on foot for their homes in Madhya Pradesh, were crushed to death by a speeding goods train in Maharashtra early this morning.
One other worker suffered injuries in the gruesome incident while three others who were part of the group were unhurt, police officials in Aurangabad told NetIndian over the telephone.
The injured person has been admitted to the Aurangabad Civil Hospital, where he is stated to be out of danger.
The mishap occurred between Badnapur and Karmad stations on the Parbhani-Manmad section on the Aurangabad-Jalna line in the Nanded Division of South Central Railway.
The workers were walking from Jalna in Maharashtra to their native places in Shahdol and Umaria districts of Madhya Pradesh -- about 1,100 km away -- because, like tens of thousands of others across the country, they were left without any jobs or money by the nationwide lockdown imposed on March 25 to contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Many such workers and their families chose to walk the hundreds of kilometres from their places of work to their homes in the absence of any other option. In recent days, the Central Government and State Governments have arranged for special trains and buses to carry them home, but many workers continue to be seen on the highways, trudging the long distances to their homes.
The incident occurred around 5.30 am today when the workers, weary from long hours of walking, decided to rest for some time on the railway tracks, Aurangabad Rural Police said.
According to them, the workers had set out from Jalna and had planned to walk to their homes in Madhya Pradesh via Aurangabad and Bhusawal in Maharashtra.
Some of the workers, who were sitting at a little distance away from the tracks, tried to alert those sleeping on the tracks but, before they could be woken up, the speeding train -- a rake of empty petroleum tankers -- on the Aurangabad-Jalna line in the Nanded Division of South Central Railway had crushed them, the sources said.
While 14 persons died on the spot, two others succumbed to their injuries subsequently.
Senior district and police officials reached the scene and were overseeing arrangements to shift the bodies of the victims to hospital for post-mortem examination before they are handed over to their relatives. They are also trying to establish the exact sequence of events that led to the tragedy, the sources added.
Senior railway officials, including Divisional Railway Manager, Nanded Division, Upinder Singh, and senior officials of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) also reached the spot.
A Medical Relief Van, comprising a team of doctors, nurses and para-medical staff, also reached the scene along with medicines and medical equipment.
South Central Railway General Manager Gajanan Mallya held a meeting with Principal Heads of Departments, to take stock of the situation and directed and relief and rescue operations be taken up as quickly as possible.
Rakesh Ch, the spokesperson for South Central Railway, told NetIndian that the empty petroleum tanker train was proceeding from Cherlapalli in Telangana to Paniwadi, near Manmad, in Maharashtra when the mishap occurred.
According to various sources, after passing Badnapur station, the loco pilot saw some people on the tracks and sounded the horn and also tried to apply the brakes but there was not enough time to stop the train.
The Ministry of Railways has ordered an inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (South-Central Circle) into the incident.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences on the deaths of the workers. "Extremely anguished by the loss of lives due to the rail accident in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. Have spoken to Railway Minister Shri Piyush Goyal and he is closely monitoring the situation. All possible assistance required is being provided," he said on micro-blogging site Twitter.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said, "Today received a saddening news of labourers sleeping on railway tracks run over by a goods train at 5.22 a.m. in Nanded division between Karnad and Badnapur railway station. Relief work is on and an enquiry has been ordered. I pray for the those who lost their lives."