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Train Derailment Kills At Least 85 in Southern India

July 8, 1988

NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ A train crossing a bridge derailed today and plunged six passenger cars into a lake and left three dangling from the overpass. Officials said 85 people died and 200 were missing.

About 500 people were taken to nearby hospitals, said officials in the towns of Quilon and Trivandrum, in southern India.

Hospital officials in Quilon said 75 victims were admitted there and 25 others in serious condition were rushed by ambulance to a larger hospital in Trivandrum, about 30 miles away. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the rest were treated and released.

The accident occurred as the 14-car Island Express was crossing a bridge near Quilon in the state of Kerala, police in Trivandrum said. Police said the accident occurred at 1:15 p.m.

Chief Constable Vellu Kutty in Quilon said the dead included 60 men, 20 women and five children.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known.

Three of the passenger cars were submerged in water 20 to 30 feet deep, said I.K. Chari, a spokesman for the Indian Railways Ministry. Three others were partly under water, he said.

He said the engine, the second car and cars at the train’s rear were hanging from the track.

Divers from a nearby Indian Navy base were flown in by helicopter to help in rescue operations. Firefighters from several towns were sent to help cut through the carriages.

The United News of India said villagers, some in small boats, rescued about 100 people from the water immediately after the crash.

Dr. Thomas Verghese, deputy director of Quilon district hospital about six miles from the accident site, told The Associated Press by telephone that 65 bodies had been recovered.

He said police had told hospital officials to expect more victims.

″Two or three cars still are under water so a minimum of 200 people have yet to be accounted for,″ he said.

The derailing occurred during the monsoon season of heavy rain, and the downpour in Kerala is reported to be the worst in years.

UNI said the south-bound train derailed while crossing a bridge spanning Ashtamudi Lake. The train was en route to Trivandrum from Bangalore, the capital of neighboring Karnataka state, it said.

Railroads remain the major form of both short- and long-distance travel in India. An average of 11,800 trains run daily in the country, carrying about 9 million passengers over a network that has 38,347 miles of rail lines.

The system is plagued by minor accidents.

The Railway Ministry announced in February that 227 people were killed in 613 train accidents during 1987.

One July 9, 1987, a train was caught in a flash flood near the town of Kazipet in Arunachal Pradesh state in southern India. Fifty-three were killed.

The Press Trust of India said the worst rail accident in the country claimed more than 300 lives in Bihar state on June 6, 1981.

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