At least 13 children, aged between 7 and 11, were killed on Thursday when a train rammed into their school van at an unmanned railway crossing in Uttar Pradesh’s Kushinagar area, around 50 km from Gorakhpur.
Eight other children were injured in the accident that occurred early this morning, Principal Secretary (Information) Awanish Awasthi said.
The children, students of Divine Public School, were killed on the spot when the Thawe-Kapatanganj passenger train crashed into the vehicle carrying them at the unmanned level crossing gate at Behpurva, officials said.
The train was on way to Gorakhpur from Siwan. There were at least 25 passengers, including children, in the vehicle which was smashed under the massive impact of the accident.
“It was an unmanned level crossing gate at Behpurva, with Gate Mitra (rail volunteer) deployed there. He tried to stop the vehicle but the unfortunate incident happened at unmanned gate 45 near Dudhi station in Banaras division,” an official spokesperson said.
The chief minister, who rushed to the accident site for an on-the-spot assessment, said prima facie the van driver appeared to be at fault.
“He is said to have earphones on…all the facts will be known in the inquiry headed by the Commissioner Gorakhpur,” he told newspersons after visiting the district hospital at Kushinagar where he met the injured.
Expressing condolence, the chief minister announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the families of the victims and directed the Gorakhpur commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the accident, Awasthi told PTI in Lucknow.
To questions, Adityanath said that four children and the van driver have been referred to BRD Medical College here and if required they will be sent to a speciality hospital for treatment.
He said the state government will take strict action against all those found responsible for the laxity.
Directives have already been issued to ensure safety of children to see that such incidents are not repeated and the inquiry report will find out where things had gone wrong in this case, the chief minister said.
When pointed out that the school was unregistered, he said that all facts will be known in the inquiry.
“I have met the family members of the victims and both the state government and Railways will extend financial help. An FIR was being lodged into the case,” he said.
The chief minister said he has spoken to the railway minister on the issue of train accidents at unmanned crossings and appealed to him to make them manned and if required ensure construction of railway overbridges.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh each for the kin of the deceased.
“I received the unfortunate news of the death of school children. I have asked senior officials to conduct a probe into the incident. Railways will give a compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the kin of the dead over and above the aid announced by the Uttar Pradesh government,” he said in a tweet.
Governor Ram Naik also condoled the death of minor children in the accident.