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The death toll in the train tragedy when 14 coaches of the Kalinga Utkal Express bound for Haridwar in Uttarakhand derailed in Muzaffarnagar, UP on Saturday, has reached 23 with 40 others injured.
"Twenty-three people have died, and 40 are injured," the office of the Director General of Police said in a revised release after mistakenly pegging the number of injured at 400 in a previous release.
The number of casualties may increase as a number of passengers continue to be trapped in the derailed coaches as the rescue efforts continued overnight.
Union Minister and Muzaffarnagar MP Sanjay Balyan, who reached the spot, claimed nearly 60 people were injured.
The incident took place around 5:45 PM when 14 coaches of the Puri-Haridwar Kalinga Utkal Express bound for Haridwar derailed in Khatauli in Meerut-Saharanpur Division. The impact of the accident was so severe that one of the coaches could be seen mounted on another while another coach had crashed into the Chowdhary Tilakram Inter College along the tracks.
Although initial reports suggested that 8 coaches had derailed, Railway spokesperson Anil Saxena confirmed that 14 of the coaches had derailed. The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rushed to the spot while the railways and police brought in heavy lift cranes and gas cutters to help the trapped passengers.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has directed Principal Secretary, Home, Arvind Kumar and the Muzaffarnagar District Magistrate to ensure prompt rescue and relief operations at Khatauli and deputised two ministers, Satish Mahana and Suresh Rana, to oversee the rescue and relief operations from the accident site directly.
CM Yogi has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh each for the dead, Rs 50,000 to this injured and Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has also announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh to the families of each person who lost their life, Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries.
"Have ordered an inquiry into the unfortunate accident to ascertain the cause. Strict action will be taken against any lapse," said Prabhu.
A team of the UP Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) headed by DSP Anoop Singh has been called in to probe any terror angle into the incident.
Leaders of the nation, President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and party Vice President Rahul Gandhi condoled the deaths in the derailment incident and expressed sympathies for the families of those who lost their lives.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala made a jibe at the Modi government over rail safety, saying that 259 passengers have lost their lives in 27 rail accidents in the last three years.
"When will the government wake up?" he asked.