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15 Die in India Train Accident - 2003-07-02

In southern India, at least 15 people were killed when a passenger train plunged off a bridge. Disaster struck the Golconda Express when the train's engine and two coaches jumped the tracks while crossing a bridge in Andhra Pradesh state.

The engine plunged onto a busy road under the bridge, crushing several vehicles, while the two coaches dangled precariously from the bridge. The accident occurred about 150 kilometers north of the state capital, Hyderabad.

The victims included train passengers and people traveling in vehicles under the bridge.

Rescue teams used gas cutters to cut open the mangled wreckage and free people trapped in the derailed coaches.

Officials say rescuers were slowed down by an unrelated political protest march that clogged city roads. Police officials spent hours trying to clear traffic so that relief personnel could reach the site.

Federal railway minister Nitish Kumar said preliminary information indicates that the train driver ran a red signal light, leading to the derailment. He says an investigation has been ordered.

Indian media reports quoted rail officials as saying that the driver may not have stopped because the brakes had failed.

It is the latest in a string of accidents to hit India's rail network. Last month, more than 50 people died after a passenger train derailed in Western India. In May, 38 people were killed when a fire swept through an express train in the northern city of Ludhiana.

India's junior rail minister Bandaru Dattatreya told Indian television that many of the accidents occur because of human error, sabotage, and equipment failure.

More than 300 rail accidents are reported every year in India. The massive rail network runs 14,000 trains every day to ferry more than 14 million passengers across the country.