Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday ordered an inquiry into the tragic Amritsar train accident in which at least 58 people were killed and 72 injured, and declared one-day mourning in the state on Saturday.
The chief minister, who was scheduled to leave for Israel in the evening, has postponed his trip and will fly to Amritsar in the morning, in order to personally supervise relief operations and meet families of the victims of the incident, which occurred during Dussehra festivities, an official statement said.
"The state will remain in mourning tomorrow in view of #Amritsar train mishap. All offices & educational institutions will remain closed," the chief minister tweeted.
"Have set up crisis management group under @BrahmMohindra to monitor relief & rehabilitation efforts in #Amritsar. Won't spare any efforts on part of govt to tackle the crisis," he said in another tweet.
According to Raveen Thukral, media advisor to the chief minister, initial reports suggest that the incident occurred during a stampede, as people rushed towards the tracks when crackers went off during 'Ravana dahan'.
Reports suggest that the train ploughed through the crowd on the tracks, leading to the tragedy. So far, 40 people have been confirmed dead and many injured. However, the death toll could rise as relief operations are underway, he said.
Additional police force has been rushed to the spot to control the situation in the wake of the incident.
Acting on the chief minister's directives, Rehabilitation Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria and Health Minister Brahm Mohindra have already rushed to Amritsar to supervise rescue and relief operations.
Punjab's home secretary, health secretary and DGP (law & order) have also left for Amritsar.
Singh has issued orders to mobilise all necessary administrative and police personnel on a war footing to help the district administration tackle the situation.
The chief minister has also directed the chief secretary to deploy administrative officials to ensure that the injured people are hospitalised immediately.
All private hospitals have been asked to remain open to provide urgent free treatment and care to the injured.
The chief minister said a thorough probe will be conducted into the incident. Why an effigy was allowed to be burnt close to the railway tracks will also be investigated.
Expressing condolences to the families of the deceased, the chief minister has announced immediate ex-gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of kin of those killed.