India, Jul 7 – More than 30 people were killed Thursday after a train slammed into a packed bus carrying a marriage party in northern India, police and hospital officials said.
The accident took place in the middle of the night at an unmanned crossing in the Kanshiram Nagar district of Uttar Pradesh state.
"Thirty-three people were killed and 24 were injured," local police official Rishi Bal Singh told AFP by telephone. All the victims were believed to have been on the bus which was carrying around 70 passengers.
The injured, some of them suffering severe head and chest injuries, were taken to the nearest district hospital about 30 kilometres (20 miles) from the site of the accident.
"Talking to the survivors, it seems the bus driver must have either not seen the signal or not heard the train when he decided to attempt the crossing," hospital superintendent S.K. Seth told AFP.
The overladen bus was carrying the groom\’s wedding party back from a late night marriage ceremony when it was hit with devastating force by the train in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The NDTV network broadcast footage from the scene, about 300 kilometres northwest of the state capital Lucknow, southeast of New Delhi, showing debris strewn across the tracks and police officers carrying bodies covered with sheets on stretchers.
The bride and groom were reportedly following behind the bus in a jeep and were unhurt.
India\’s state-run railway system — still the main form of long-distance travel despite fierce competition from new private airlines — carries 18.5 million people daily.
There are hundreds of incidents on the railways every year, but this is the deadliest accident in 2011.
The office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced compensation for the victims, with 200,000 rupees (4,500 dollars) for the families of the deceased and 50,000 for the injured.
In May last year, nearly 150 people were killed when a Mumbai-bound high-speed passenger express from Kolkata veered off the tracks into the path of an oncoming freight train after the track had apparently been sabotaged.
In July 2010, more than 60 people were killed and 165 injured when a speeding express rammed into the back of a stationary passenger train in the eastern state of West Bengal.
The worst accident in India was in 1981 when a train plunged into a river in the eastern state of Bihar, killing an estimated 800 people.
India\’s Railway Board chairman Vinay Mittal was on his way to the accident site, an unnamed source in his office told AFP.
In February, India\’s railways minister revealed a nearly 40 percent hike in the budget of the accident-prone Indian Railways, on which safety regulations are routinely flouted.
Attempts to stop people riding on the roofs of trains have largely failed, vehicles routinely drive around barriers at crossings, and passengers are often seen hanging out of open doors in the carriages.
Experts say the creaking system, the world\’s second largest under a single management, is also desperately in need of new investment to help end transportation bottlenecks that threaten the country\’s fast economic growth.
The railways are the country\’s largest employer with 1.4 million people on its payroll and it runs 11,000 trains a day.