At least 16 migrant labourers were killed early on Friday after a cargo train ran over them in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district, PTI reported. The workers were walking back home to Madhya Pradesh when the incident occurred. Four other migrant workers survived the accident which took place at 5.15 am near Karmad, around 30 km from Aurangabad.

The victims, who had been walking along the rail tracks, had fallen asleep on them sometime during the night. They were reportedly run over around 5 am, reported NDTV. The labourers were walking to Bhusawal in Madhya Pradesh from Jalna in Maharashtra, an officer at the Karmad police station told PTI.

“The labourers, working in a steel factory in Jalna, left for their home state on foot last night,” police officer Santosh Khetmalas said. “They came till Karmad and slept off on the tracks as they were tired.”

The number of victims, who were workers at an iron factory in Jalna district, may be up to 17, News18 reported. The train was running between Aurangabad and Jalna.

The Ministry of Railways said that after seeing some labourers on the track, the loco pilot of the goods train tried to stop but eventually hit them between Badnapur and Karmad stations in Parbhani-Manmad section. “Those who were injured have been taken to the Aurangabad Civil Hospital,” it tweeted. “[An] inquiry has been ordered.”

The police said the workers likely assumed that trains were not running due to the coronavirus-induced nationwide lockdown. Their footwear and other belongings were strewn on the tracks.

The police and the Railway Police Force personnel have reached the spot. Madhya Pradesh Tribal Welfare Minister Meena Singh will leave for Aurangabad in a special aircraft. Former Maharashtra Speaker Haribhau Bagde visited the spot.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “anguished” by the loss of live in the accident. “[I] have spoken to Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and he is closely monitoring the situation,” he tweeted. “All possible assistance is being provided.”

Political strategist Prashant Kishor tweeted that the migrant workers had been reduced to “statistics”. “The faceless migrant workers are reduced to mere statistics...both in their lives and death,” he said. “Make no mistake, but for few exceptions, Governments both at center & states have been brazen in leaving them at their fate and the mercy of the greed of the society.”

Union Home Minister Amit Shah said he was “pained beyond words”. “I have spoken to Railway Minister Shri Piyush Goyal, concerned authorities in the central govt and railway administration to ensure all possible assistance,” he tweeted.

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