Bengaluru, India, May 8 (efe-epa).- A total 16 people lost their lives on Friday when a cargo train ran over a group of people asleep on railway tracks in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, official sources said.
According to the local police, the accident occurred around 5.30 am in Aurangabad district.
The victims were migrant laborers who were returning home to their native villages on foot along the tracks, while the country remains under lockdown due to the coronavirus crisis.
“There were 20 people sleeping on the tracks. It was dark, they had been walking through the night. The goods train ran over them,” Aurangabad police spokesperson Nand Vanshi told EFE.
The victims were employed at a factory that closed down due to the COVID-19 outbreak, as the government declared a total shutdown of all public transport and commercial and industrial activity from Mar.25.
Under these circumstances, these laborers decided to embark on a journey of hundreds of miles to their villages in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh on foot.
“During early hours today after seeing some labourers on track, loco pilot of goods train tried to stop the train but eventually hit them,” the Railway Ministry tweeted.
It added that those injured had been transferred to a hospital in Aurangabad, and an investigation had been ordered into the incident.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also took to Twitter and to offer his condolences and said he was “extremely anguished by the loss of lives due to the rail accident.”
The Maharashtra authorities announced a compensation of 500,000 rupees ($6,614) to the families of the deceased migrant workers, and said the local government would bear the medical expenditures of those injured.
Migrant workers, who come from small towns and villages to work in factories and at construction sites in far-off cities, have been the worst-hit by the restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Although the government has eased some restrictions over the past week and allowed designated trains to carry the migrant wage earners back to their villages, most of them remain stuck in different cities across the country.
Several among the hundreds of thousands of stranded laborers have even started the journey by foot to reach their homes hundreds of miles away.
The government earlier announced a $23 billion aid package to help the poor, including migrant workers. However, critics say it was never enough, as the number of COVID-19 patients has been steadily climbing, despite the stringent measures.
India, the world’s second-most populous country and with some of the most-densely crowded cities on the planet, has over 56,000 COVID-19 cases and 1,895 deaths so far, according to Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker. EFE-EPA