India Killer Train May Have Been Carrying Ammunition

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First the authorities said it was a bomb; then they said it was a train wreck. Now it appears that a railway crash in northern India that killed somewhere between 250 and 500 people may have been both. Two express trains collided in the town of Gaisan in the early hours of Monday after a signal failure placed them on the same line. "The explosions and the high casualty figure may have been due in part to the fact that one of the trains was carrying troops and ammunition," says TIME New Delhi correspondent Meenakshi Ganguly. Having pulled 226 bodies from 15 mangled carriages, rescuers were still struggling Tuesday to reach a further 250 people trapped in the wreckage.

India experiences an average of 400 train crashes a year, 60 percent of them caused by human error. "Much of the Indian railway system hasn't yet been computerized, and relies on a signalman radioing ahead to the next station when a train has passed through," says Ganguly. "If for some reason the next signalman is away from his radio and misses the message, he fails to switch the signals and that's it." Throw in the country's traditionally overcrowded trains, and a few munitions, and you have a disaster of epic proportions.