Survivors recall horror of deadly double Indian train crash

A train drives past the wreckage of another train crash in India's West Bengal state on June 18 (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR)
A train drives past the wreckage of another train crash in India's West Bengal state on June 18 (DIBYANGSHU SARKAR)

Survivors of an Indian double train crash that killed nine people described on Tuesday their terror when a driver missed a signal and rammed a goods train into a passenger express.

The force of the crash on Monday was so strong that one carriage was initially thrust high into the air, precariously balanced on another.

Heavy goods carriages were flung off the tracks, lying high in tumbled piles.

"I did not feel like I was going to survive," said one passenger, Arti Roy, who lost her belongings when the carriages crumpled, twisted and then flipped off the rails.

The incident in West Bengal state is the latest to hit India's creaking rail network, which carries millions of passengers each day -- and the most recent reported failure of drivers missing basic signals.

Jahangir Alam, 35, who lives near the crash site in the Phansidewa area of Darjeeling district, rushed to offer his help.

He said the sight of the wrecked trains terrified him.

"These accidents that are happening are very dangerous," he said.

"Whenever we think about travelling by train, we feel scared inside."

Jaya Varma Sinha, chairman of India's Railway Board, said that the driver of the goods train had "disregarded the signal" and hit the back of the passenger train.

The driver and his co-driver both died in the crash.

Sinha said the casualties could have been worse, but a guard wagon and two others carrying post at the back of the passenger train took the brunt of the crash.

- 'Horrific experience' -

Officials said Tuesday that the number of dead had risen to nine after one of the around 50 injured died in hospital.

"The death toll from the accident has risen to nine, with the death of an injured passenger," Eastern Railway official Kausik Mitra told AFP.

"Around 40 injured people are still admitted to the hospital, but their condition is stable."

But the express train -- minus its final five carriages which were derailed or damaged -- was able to limp on and continue its journey.

It reached Kolkata with about 500 passengers on Monday night.

"It was a horrific experience," said Antara Das, 35, told AFP. "God has saved us."

Trains resumed operating on parallel tracks, with work to repair the line and clear the twisted metal debris of the carriages expected to finish later Tuesday.

Many of the carriages have since been cleared from the lines, pushed onto the grassy verge.

As trains passed them on Tuesday morning, passengers stared out at the wreckage.

India has one of the world's largest rail networks and has seen several disasters over the years, the worst in 1981 when a train derailed while crossing a bridge in Bihar state, killing an estimated 800 people.

In June last year, a three-train collision killed nearly 300 people in Odisha state.

In that crash, a packed passenger train was mistakenly diverted onto a loop line and slammed into a stationary goods train loaded with iron ore.

Three railway employees were later charged with culpable homicide and destruction of evidence.

In October, at least 14 people died when two passenger trains collided after one overshot a signal in Andhra Pradesh state.

The railways ministry said that drivers had been distracted because they were watching cricket on a phone, as hosts India played England during the one-day World Cup.

But in recent years, India has been investing huge sums of money to upgrade its network with modern stations and electronic signalling systems.