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Runaway train in India rolls for 12 km without engine

New Delhi

INDIA'S railway ministry said on Sunday that a "ghastly" accident was narrowly avoided after 22 train coaches carrying some 1,000 passengers became detached from the engine and sped backwards for miles before being stopped.

The runaway carriages in the eastern state of Odisha rolled for 12 kilometres before being brought to a shuddering halt by rocks placed on the tracks by railway staff.

A spokesman for the railway ministry's eastern division said none of the passengers were injured in the incident on Saturday night.

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But seven railway employees who did not follow proper procedures have been suspended and an investigation launched into how the carriages became separated during the journey from the western state of Gujarat to Odisha, said spokesman JP Mishra.

Authorities believe that brakes applied when carriages are detached or attached to the engine were either incorrectly used or overlooked altogether.

"Something ghastly could have happened and it was averted by alert staff. Safety cannot be compromised," Mr Mishra said, adding that "more heads are likely to roll".

"Everybody in the railways (ministry) is aghast and shocked." AFP