Train hits school van, 13 children dead

New Delhi: At least 13 children were killed after their school van was hit by a speeding train at a railway crossing in Uttar Pradesh early on Thursday, police officials said. The crash took place near the town of Kushinagar as the children were on their way to school.
“Most of the victims, who were under the age of ten years, died on the spot,” police spokesman Gopal Pandey said by phone. Four injured children were taken to a nearby hospital.
Local police revised their statement that the driver was killed in the accident, saying that he had in fact survived and had been admitted to the hospital.
Authorities blamed the driver for the accident.
“I am told the van driver was wearing earphones while driving,” Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath told reporters. “This is a case of pure negligence.”
Railway officials said a rail volunteer — who alerts commuters about approaching trains at crossings — had signalled to the van to stop but the driver ignored the signal.
“An inquiry has been ordered and based on the investigation, the guilty will face the most severe punishment,” Adityanath added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior government officials offered their condolences to the families of the victims. Monetary compensation from Indian Railways and the state government totalling Rs 400,000 has been offered to the families of the victims.
Scores of people are killed in accidents at unmanned railway crossings in India every year.
Thursday’s accident was the second fatal vehicle incident involving schoolchildren this month. Twenty-seven people, including 23 children, died on April 9 when a school bus fell into a gorge in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh. — dpa