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Dozens Watching Fireworks in India Are Mowed Down by Speeding Train

NEW DELHI — They were watching the bad guy go down.

On a cool Friday night in October, in an annual ritual on the Hindu calendar, an effigy of a 10-headed demon was set on fire. Firecrackers exploded brightly in the night sky. Ordinary folks were out late, some sitting on the railroad tracks, some lounging along them, trying to catch a glimpse of the spectacle. Some people were taking pictures on their phones.

No one heard the train barreling through the darkness.

At least 50 people were mowed down and killed, the police said. Emergency workers rushed to the scene, and at least 60 people were taken to area hospitals, according to Reuters.

“People present near the railway track couldn’t hear the sound of the approaching train due to the bursting crackers,” the junior railways minister, Manoj Sinha, said on local television.

The episode occurred on the outskirts of Amritsar, in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab, along a local train line that connects Amritsar to another city, Jalandhar.

The occasion was Dussehra, a holiday celebrated by Hindus signifying the victory of good over evil, during which a portion of a mythological epic, the Ramayana, may be re-enacted. Across India, in urban and rural neighborhoods alike, an effigy of Ravana, a 10-headed demon, is set afire as people gather to watch.

But why the local authorities allowed people to gather on and around the railway tracks remains a mystery. Politicians traded blame.

The chief minister of Punjab state, Amarinder Singh, told the ANI television network that he had ordered an inquiry.

An estimated 27 million people use the Indian rail network, which crisscrosses 70,000 miles of track. Safety standards have long been neglected. One of the worst accidents in recent years was a derailment of the Indore-Patna Express near Kanpur, in northern India, on Nov. 20, 2016, which left 150 people dead.

Source: NYT > World

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