At least 9 dead, dozens injured as trains collide in India's Darjeeling district, a tourist hotspot

NEW DELHI (AP) — A cargo train rammed into a passenger train in India's eastern state of West Bengal on Monday, killing at least nine people and injuring dozens of others, officials said.

Television channels showed video of one train rammed into the end of the other, with one compartment rising vertically in the air. Doctors and ambulances rushed to the accident site in the Darjeeling district, a tourist spot nestled in the Himalayan foothills, soon after the collision. Scores of people gathered as rescuers searched through the debris.

Three of the nine dead were railway personnel, said Sabyasachi De, spokesperson of the Northeast Frontier Railway. Nearly 50 people were hospitalized.

The driver of the cargo train, who was among the dead, disregarded a signal and caused the collision, De said. Four compartments at the rear of the passenger train derailed due to the impact, he said, adding that most of the cars were carrying cargo while one was a passenger coach.

De said rescuers have finished searching for any more passengers, with workers now focused on restoring the damaged tracks and removing the derailed coaches. The rest of the coaches, carrying around 1,300 passengers, continued to their original destination of Kolkata, the state's capital, he said.

The Kanchanjunga Express is a daily train that connects West Bengal state with other cities in the northeast. It is often used by tourists who travel to the hill station of Darjeeling, popular at this time of year when other Indian cities are sweltering in the heat.

More than 12 million people ride 14,000 trains across India daily, traveling on 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) of track. Despite government efforts to improve rail safety, several hundred accidents happen annually, most blamed on human error or outdated signaling equipment.

Last year, a train crash in eastern India killed over 280 people in one of the country's deadliest accidents in decades.

The Associated Press