A goods locomotive collided with a stationary passenger train in West Bengal state on Monday, killing at least 15 people People look on at the site of a collision between an express passenger train and a goods train in Nirmaljote, near Rangapani station in India’s West Bangal state on June 17, 2024. © Diptendu DUTTA / AFP

At least 15 people died and around 60 were injured when a goods locomotive struck a stationary passenger train in India’s West Bengal state on Monday.

The engine of the goods train was damaged in the collision, and three carriages of the passenger train were derailed. The driver and the assistant driver of the moving train died in the crash, while the guard of the train that was struck was also killed.

Human error was cited as the likely cause of the accident by Jaya Varma Sinha, the CEO of the Railway Board. “It seems that the driver of the goods train disregarded the signal,” he said at a press conference.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the incident as “saddening” and offered his condolences to all those who had lost loved ones in the crash. He said he had spoken to officials and taken stock of the situation. The government has announced compensation of Rs 200,000 for each of the families of the deceased from the prime minister’s relief fund, and Rs 50,000 ($598) to those who were injured.

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw flew from New Delhi to visit the scene of the crash. Addressing the media after the rescue operation was over, he said the authorities would focus on restoring the tracks to allow services to resume in a country that relies heavily on rail transportation, with more than 12 million people traveling on 14,000 trains each daily.

“This is not the time for politics,” Vaishnaw said, referring to criticism from opposition leaders in the wake of the crash.

Earlier, Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the opposition Congress party, questioned the Modi government’s record on railway safety and attributed a rise in accidents over the past decade to “mismanagement and negligence.”

Monday’s incident served as a grim reminder of another major train collision in Odisha state last year. Almost 300 people were killed and more than 1,200 injured in the country’s worst rail disaster in decades. At least three carriages were derailed in the accident. The authorities cited “human error” as a possible reason for the accident, and launched a probe to determine the exact cause.

Throughout 2023, at least 17 major train accidents and scores of fatalities were reported in India.

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