Passenger train in India derails killing at least 39


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At least 39 people were killed and 50 injured after nine coaches of a passenger train derailed in eastern India, police have said, in the latest disaster to hit the vast and accident-prone state railways.

The death toll could rise further as many people were still trapped, chief press officer of East Coast Railways JP Misra said.

The express train from Jagdalpur to Bhubaneswar derailed about 11:20pm (local time) near Kuneri station in the state of Andhra Pradesh, around 30 kilometres outside the town of Raigarh.

“Nine bogies were derailed of which three have turned and fallen off the track,” local police superintendent Ranga Rao said.

“Most of the casualties and deaths are from the three sleeper-class compartments.”

Mr Rao said no evidence of sabotage had been detected, but East Coast Railway, which has jurisdiction over the area where the derailment occurred, said authorities were not ruling out the possibility.

“The rescue operation is almost over,” East Coast Railway chief public relations officer JP Mishra said.

“Our first priority is to take care of the injured passengers and provide proper treatment by shifting them to hospitals.

“We are also searching all the coaches to ensure that nobody remains stranded in them.”

India’s state railways, built during British colonial rule, have an appalling safety record — the result of decades of underinvestment and a priority on keeping fares low for the 23 million passengers who use the network every day.

In the last serious accident, 150 people died when a train derailed late last year in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

India recorded 27,581 railway deaths in 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available, with most victims falling from, or being struck by, moving trains.

“Anguished to learn about the train accident near Vizianagaram,” Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu said on Twitter, offering his condolences to the families of the victims.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that the tragedy was “saddening” and said the railways ministry was working to ensure quick relief and rescue operations.

Last year, Mr Modi pledged to invest $137 billion over the next five years to modernise the railway network which is used by about 23 million passengers a day.

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