(Eds: adds details) Aurangabad, May 8 (PTI) Sixteen migrant workers sleeping on rail tracks while returning to Madhya Pradesh were crushed to death by a goods train in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra on Friday, police said.
The Railways announced a comprehensive probe into the accident which took place at 5.15 am near Karmad, around 30 km from Aurangabad.
Those killed and the four other migrant workers who survived were all male, officials said.
A viral video clip from the scene of the tragedy shows the bodies of migrant workers lying on the tracks and nearby with their meagre personal belongings scattered around.
Aurangabad SP Mokshada Patil told PTI that three of the four survivors had tried in vain to wake up their colleagues who had slept on the track after a overnight walk from Jalna, around 40 km from the accident spot.
The workers were walking to Bhusawal from Jalna along rail tracks, while returning to their home state Madhya Pradesh, an official at the Karmad police station said.
They were sleeping on rail tracks due to exhaustion when they were run over by the goods train coming from Jalna, he said.
'The labourers, working in a steel factory in Jalna, left for their home state on foot last night. They came till Karmad and slept off on the tracks as they were tired,' another police official said.
Three of the four survivors were sleeping some distance away from the rail tracks, police said.
The migrant workers, rendered jobless due to the coronavirus-enforced lockdown and desperate to go to their native places, were walking along the rail tracks apparently to escape police attention.
The survivors had frantically raised alarm to alert their group members sleeping on tracks about the approaching freight train, police said.
Chilling details emerged about the tragedy as survivors recounted the events.
'A group of 20 stranded labourers started walking from Jalna. They decided to take rest and most of them lied on rail tracks. Three of them were taking rest in a nearby plain area.
After some time, these three saw a goods train coming and immediately raised the alarm but it went unheard,' Patil said.
'I had a word with the survivors. They started walking from Jalna and tried to reach Bhusaval on earlier night which is around 30-40 km away from the place of the accident (near Karmad near Aurangabad),' the IPS officer said.
'The three survivors, who were resting a little away, tried to wake up the people sleeping on the tracks by frantically shouting, but that provide futile as the train ran over them,' the police officer said.
'This is an unfortunate incident. Out of the 20 people, 16 died, one is injured and three are with us. A case will be registered at the Karmad police station,' she added.
Chief Commissioner of Railway Safety Shailesh Pathak wrote to the Railway Board Chairman, calling for abundant caution and requesting him to issue instructions to ensure that such an accident does not recur.
The Commission of Railway Safety, which investigates all serious rail accidents, also said that now that such an incident of migrant or other persons walking along the tracks leading to consequent deaths have come to notice, all-out efforts must be made to prevent recurrence of such incidents.
Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh governments announced financial aid of Rs 10 lakh - Rs 5 lakh each - to families of the deceased.
Jalna SP S Chaitanya said the migrant labourers had started their journey for Madhya Pradesh without informing their employer or the local administration.
The victims, aged between 20 and 35 years, hailed from Umaria and Shahdol districts of MP, and worked at a steel company in Jalna, the police officer said.
'They left without informing the company or the district administration,' he said.
While the administration is running a shelter camp for migrant labourers, the victims were living on the premises of the factory where worked, he added.
The labourers decided to walk to Aurangabad as they believed they could catch a train for MP from there, he said.
According to the survivors of the tragedy, they left Jalna at 7 pm on Thursday and decided to rest on the tracks after walking for about 36 km, a railway official said.
'The train had empty petroleum containers and was on its way to Panewadi in Manmad tehsil. After the accident, it was halted at the next station,' the official said.
Another official said the bodies of the victims would be taken to Jabalpur by train from Aurangabad later on Friday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed anguish over the death of 14 migrant workers in the train accident. He said all possible assistance is being provided.
President Ram Nath Kovind said he was saddened beyond words over the deaths of 16 migrant workers, while Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said he was deeply saddened to learn about the loss of lives in the accident. PTI TEAM VT VT