At least 13 children have been killed in India after a train crashed into their school bus, amid reports the bus driver was listening to music through headphones.
Another eight children were injured, five of them critically, and were taken to a hospital in the northern town of Kushinagar, police officer O.P. Singh said.
It is not clear how old the children were, with some reports claiming they were aged between five and 14; others saying seven to 11.
The bus driver, who also died in the collision, had ignored a rail guard’s stop signal and there are unconfirmed reports he had headphones on and was listening to music when the accident happened.
The van, which was carrying 22 children, drove onto the train tracks where it was hit by a passenger train at about 7.30am at an unmanned level crossing gate at Behpurva, in Uttar Pradesh.
“The gate mitra (rail volunteer) tried to stop the van driver but he didn’t stop and his van somehow stopped at the track.” Sanjay Yadav from NE Railway said.
India’s Railway Minister Piyush Goyal ordered an inquiry into the accident and promised families of the deceased would be offered two lakh (£2,150) in compensation for their loss.
Accidents are common on India’s rail network, which is one of the world’s largest, carrying 23 million passengers every day on about 11,000 passenger trains.
Crossings that have no gates to block traffic or are not permanently guarded are common, especially in rural India.
A little over two weeks ago, at least 24 children and three adults were killed when a school bus plunged off a mountain road in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh.