Thirty seven people, mostly women and children, were killed in Bihar this morning when an express train ploughed into pilgrims at a remote and poorly connected area in the state's Khagaria district, around 160 km from Patna.
The incident at 8:40 am triggered mayhem at the Dhamara Ghat Station, as a violent mob reportedly assaulted the train driver, set trains on fire, vandalized the station and held railway staff hostage.
Bodies lay on rail tracks for hours as the violence made it difficult for rescue and relief teams to reach the spot, which is accessible only by rail.
Those killed were mostly kanwarias or devotees of Lord Shiva, who were crossing the tracks at the Dhamara Ghat station in Katyani Sthan, the site of a popular Shiva temple. They had reportedly exited another train, when the Rajyarani Express train from Saharsa, travelling at a speed of 80 km/hour on its way to Patna, crushed them.
"The people should not have been on the tracks, there are always warnings," said Railway spokesperson Amitabh Prabhakar.
As a mob went on the rampage, many railway personnel reportedly hid or ran away, leaving the station completely unmanned, say officials. Train services have been suspended on the route.
Railway officials say the situation is volatile. Rescue workers, district and police officials took hours to reach the spot, considered to be a remote part of the district.
"We are finding it difficult to reach the spot as there are no roads," said SK Bhardwaj, Additional Director General, Bihar Police.