The country’s railway ministry admitted a “ghastly” accident had been avoided following the “shocking” incident, which saw 22 train coaches carrying some 1,000 passengers become detached from the engine.
It was only brought to a shuddering halt thanks to quick-thinking staff who placed rocks on the tracks.
Nobody was injured, but seven railway employees have been suspended for not following proper procedures and an investigation has been launched into how the carriages became separated.
The train was travelling from the western state of Gujarat to Odisha in the east when it happened, and authorities believe that the brakes designated for use when carriages become detached were either overlooked or applied incorrectly.
Railway ministry spokesman JP Mishra said: “Something ghastly could have happened and it was averted by alert staff.
“Safety cannot be compromised. More heads are likely to roll. Everybody in the railways ministry is aghast and shocked.”
The ministry also addressed the accident on Twitter, describing it as “an isolated incident of staff negligence”.
“While concerned staff has been suspended & high level enquiry has also been ordered, Rlys (sic) remains committed to ensuring highest levels of safety,” it added.
“IR (Indian Railways) has also ordered a one month long drive over the entire network for sensitising the staff regarding the precautions to be taken to prevent such incidents.
“Passenger safety followed by passenger comfort remain the highest priority of Indian Railways.”
Incident of rolling down of Ahmedabad -Puri Ex at Titlagarh is an isolated incident of staff negligence that is sincerely regretted by IR.While concerned staff has been suspended & high level enquiry has also been ordered,Rlys remains comitted to ensuring highest levels of safety
— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) April 8, 2018
The dramatic scenes, which were captured by mobile phones and posted on social media, are the latest in an increasingly long line of accidents to beset the country’s creaking rail network, which dates back to the colonial era.
In February, four elephants were killed after they were hit by a train travelling from Guwahati to Silchar, about 110 miles away from its departure station in the state of Assam.
Another five were killed in December when they were hit by a train in the same state, with 60 thought to having died on the tracks in the whole of 2017 – and 110 the year before that.
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Last November, 13 coaches of an express train derailed in the north of the country, killing three people and leaving another nine with injuries.
And in the same month in 2016, a similar disaster near Pukhrayan, a village outside Kanpur, killed 146 people and injured 226.