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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 April, 2005, 14:03 GMT 15:03 UK
Trains collide in western India
Survivor being pulled out of the wreckage
Army troops have joined the rescue effort
At least 17 people have been killed and 78 injured in a collision between a passenger train and stationary goods train in western India.

The collision occurred in Baroda district in Gujarat, about 380km (230 miles) north of Mumbai (Bombay).

The passenger train was en route from the northern holy city of Varanasi to Ahmedabad, Gujarat's main city.

Indian railways have a poor safety record and the visiting railways minister's car came under attack.

'Untraceable'

The Varanasi-Ahmedabad Express hit the freight train, derailing four coaches and the engine of the freight train at around 0330 (2200 GMT), Western Railways spokesman Shailendra Kumar said.

The Indian army was called in to help with the rescue operation. All passengers have now been removed from the carriages.

Officials confirmed that the driver and assistant driver of the passenger train were both killed.

Railways official M Ansari told the AFP agency: "It appears to be a case of human error on the part of the staff. The guard on duty is untraceable."

Railways Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav blamed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi of the Hindu nationalist BJP for orchestrating the attack on his car, which was pelted with stones and bottles.

"The purpose of the attack was to kill me," he said, pledging to push for Gujarat to be placed under federal rule.

Rescue effort

Most of the passengers were sleeping when the accident happened.

Yadav at the crash site
The visiting Mr Yadav's car was attacked

Abhilasha Chauhan, from Ahmedabad, said: "I was fast asleep with my baby when all of a sudden there was a rattling sound. I couldn't figure out what was going on and just covered my baby.

"Next I realised the carriage was tipping. My father was injured but me and my baby escaped unscathed."

Eyewitnesses Anil Patel said he was sleeping outside his shop near the tracks when he heard a loud bang that sounded like a bomb blast.

"I ran to the site along with other people and found passengers trapped inside. We ran back to the village and came with ladders and other tools to help rescue them."

India has one of the largest rail networks in the world with 13m people travelling by train each day.

There are about 300 accidents recorded each year.

In December, 36 people died after a head-on collision between two trains in the northern state of Punjab, leading to calls for the resignation of the railways minister.




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SEE ALSO:
India train crash deaths reach 55
04 Feb 05 |  South Asia
Rail official arrested over crash
16 Dec 04 |  South Asia
India's antiquated railways
14 Dec 04 |  South Asia


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