NEW DELHI - In India’s southeastern state of Andhra Pradesh, at least 35 people were killed and scores injured in a train accident Saturday night.
Railway officials said eight coaches of the train derailed and fell off the track around 11 p.m. as it passed through a remote district when most people were sleeping. Operations were conducted through the night to extricate passengers trapped in the mangled coaches. Many have been moved to nearby hospitals.
Those who escaped injuries were taken to the nearby city of Bhubaneshwar.
East Coast Railway spokesman J.P. Mishra told Indian television “our priority at the moment is to ensure that all the passengers who are injured get the best of treatment that is possible.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that the tragedy was “saddening” and said the Railway Ministry was working to ensure quick relief and rescue operations.
Railway officials said investigations are under way to determine the cause of the accident, although officials have not ruled out sabotage.
The latest accident once again turned the spotlight on the poor safety record of India’s gigantic rail network that transports more than 23 million people every day.
Just a day before the latest tragedy, another train derailed in the northern state of Rajasthan causing minor injuries to 100 people. Officials said the derailment could have been caused by a fault in the rail tracks.
Two months ago, in one of the country’s worst train accidents, 150 people died in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh when a train came off the tracks.
15,000 killed annually on trains
A government report has estimated that about 15,000 people are killed every year on the rail network.
Experts have long called for India to modernize its tracks and bridges, many of which date back to the 19th century when the rail system was built. They say India also needs to review its outdated system of track maintenance, which still relies heavily on physical inspection by an army of track men instead of technology.
The poor safety is blamed on lack of investment in the railways, on which fares are heavily subsidized. India needs billions of dollars to upgrade its infrastructure whether it is railways, roads or ports.