14 workers laid off by coronavirus lockdown killed by train in India

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus around the world: May 7, 2020' Coronavirus around the world: May 7, 2020
'Smart helmets' are helping staff at an airport in Rome check passengers’ temperatures from a distance. Jasmine Pazzano has more on this story and other top coronavirus headlines. – May 7, 2020

An Indian train killed 14 migrant workers who had fallen asleep on the track on Friday while they were heading back to their home village after losing their jobs in a coronavirus lockdown, police said.

Tens of thousands of people have been walking home from India’s big cities after being laid off because of the lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus since late March.

The driver tried to stop the freight train when he saw the workers on the tracks in the western state of Maharashtra, the railway ministry said, adding it had ordered an inquiry.

Fourteen people were killed and five were injured, said a railway spokesman, C.H. Rakesh.

READ MORE: At least 8 dead, nearly 1,000 sick after chemical gas leak at India plant

Story continues below advertisement

“I have just heard the sad news about laborers coming under the train, rescue work is underway,” Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said on Twitter.

Under the lockdown, all public transport has been suspended so migrant workers heading home often have to walk long distances to get there.

[ Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

The government has extended the lockdown until May 17.

Police said the laborers worked for a steel company and were walking to their village in the neighboring state of Madhya Pradesh.

Click to play video: 'Emergency personnel respond following deadly gas leak at LG Polymers plant in southern India' Emergency personnel respond following deadly gas leak at LG Polymers plant in southern India
Emergency personnel respond following deadly gas leak at LG Polymers plant in southern India – May 7, 2020

“They had been walking all night, they were exhausted and fell asleep on the tracks,” a police officer said.

Because of the lockdown, they were probably not expecting any trains to be moving, an official said.

Story continues below advertisement

India’s eight-week long lockdown, one of the world’s most stringent, has helped contain the coronavirus officials say, but it has hit the poor hard.

Criticism has mounted about how Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has arranged planes to bring back Indians from overseas, while leaving laborers stranded in big cities with little food or cash.

READ MORE: Pakistan’s coronavirus cases surge past 25K hours before lockdown was due to be lifted

Modi said on Twitter he was anguished by the loss of lives in the train accident and all possible assistance was being provided.

“Shocked by the deaths of migrant workers hit by train. We should be ashamed of how we treat our nation-builders,” said Rahul Gandhi, leader of the main opposition Congress party.

Over the past week, some state governments facing public pressure organized trains and buses to bring back migrant laborers.

Many are trudging great distances in the blistering heat through fields and forests to get home.

(Additional reporting by Nigam Prusty in New Delhi; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani Editing by Robert Birsel)

Sponsored content