A passenger train collided with a freight train in southern India on early Tuesday morning, killing at least 25 people and injuring dozens more, officials said. It is the deadliest train accident in India so far this year.
The accident occurred on early Tuesday morning at around 3:15 a.m. local time when a Hampi Express train heading toward Bangalore crashed into a stationary freight train at the rail station in Penukonda, a small town in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh state.
The powerful collision caused two of the railroad cars on the Hampi Express to catch fire, burning some passengers alive as they tried to flee the carriage. Rescue workers who arrived at the scene used metal cutters to free some of the trapped passengers, but many people could not be saved.
A police spokesperson confirmed 25 people were killed, including two children aged 9 and 12, although seven victims have not yet been identified. "Every life is precious. This is a very sad incident," said Railway Minister Mukul Roy, who ordered an investigation into the deadly crash, according to national broadcaster NDTV.
Investigators said the Hampi Express train is believed to have crossed a red signal, either by a fault on the train driver's part or because of a technical problem. "Within 10 days the probe report will be submitted and action will be taken," Roy said, promising a preliminary report to be released next week.
In addition to those killed, police said around 70 people were injured and rushed to hospitals in Penukonda, Hindupur and Anantapur. Some of those injured were in a serious or critical condition, officials said, which could raise the number of fatalities.
India's railroad network is the fourth largest in the world and carries more than 14 million passengers and over a million tonnes of freight daily. But accidents are common, mainly as a result of poor maintenance and human error.
On January 11, five people were killed and nine others were injured when a passenger train collided with a freight train in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand. The New Delhi-bound passenger train was passing through a station when it crashed into a stationary freight train which had accidentally rolled back from another track.
And in September 2011, ten people were killed and more than 70 others were injured when an Electric Multiple Unit train collided with another passenger train which was waiting for a signal in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Before that, in July 2011, a total of 70 people were killed and more than 300 others were injured when a passenger train bound for the Indian capital of New Delhi derailed in Uttar Pradesh state. Just hours later, another passenger train derailed in western Assam state, injuring around 50 people.