A top Railways official on Monday said the collision between the Kanchanjunga Express and a goods train took place because of a human error. The official said the loco pilot of the goods train disregarded the signal.

Onlookers watch as rescuers work after a cargo train rammed Kanchanjunga Express, a passenger train. (AP)

“The accident happened today morning. Kanchenjunga Express was travelling from Agartala to Sealdah. The train was hit in the rear end by a goods train, which disregarded the signal,” Jaya Varma Sinha, Chairman and CEO of the Railway Board, told ANI.

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At least nine people have died in the accident. News agency PTI, quoting local reports, said the death toll could be as high as 15.

The Sealdah-bound train was rammed from behind by the goods train.

Sinha said the driver of the goods train and the guard of the express train also lost their lives in the accident.

“The loco pilot of the goods train and the guard of Kanchanjungha Express have also lost their lives. About fifty passengers have been injured and they have been admitted to the North Bengal Medical College,” Sinha added.

She said that a guard’s coach and two parcel vans of Kanchanjunga Express were destroyed and it was because of these three coaches, the passenger coaches remained largely unaffected.

She said the general compartment of the train was also damaged due to the collision.

“The general compartment has also been impacted. Our priority was to rescue passengers. It has been completed now. Our area officer and his team reached the accident site, which is 10 km from the New Jalpaiguri station,” Sinha said.

She said NDRF, Army and state administration were helped by local people.

Meanwhile, a Railways source told PTI that the automatic signalling system between Ranipatra Railway Station and Chattar Hat Junction in West Bengal was defective since 5.50 am.

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The accident took place around three hours later.

“Train No 13174 (Sealdah Kanchanjungha Express) departed Rangapani station at 8:27 am and stopped between Ranipatra railway station and Chattar Hat due to automatic signalling failure from 5:50 am,” the source told PTI.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the accident. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw will visit the site of the accident, he informed.

Vaishnaw has announced ex-gratia compensation to the victims of the accident. He said the families of the deceased will receive 10 lakh whereas those injured will get 2.5 lakh. Those with minor injuries will get 50000.

With inputs from PTI, ANI


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