Fifteen migrant laborers in India were run over and killed by a train on Friday as they tried to make their way home during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, authorities said.
Arun Kumar, the director general of India's Railway Protection Force, said the victims were walking to a station in the state of Maharashtra. They had been sleeping on the tracks before they were hit by a goods train shortly after 5 a.m. Four others who were hit survived, two of whom are in critical condition.
It's common for people to cross train tracks in India even when trains are running, but it's unclear why the laborers were sleeping on them. Kumar said it's possible that the laborers may have walked along railway tracks to avoid the main road in order to get around police checkpoints, as cross border travel is not permitted under the lockdown and they would have been made to turn around. No passengers trains are currently running between states.
The laborers worked in an iron factory in Jalna district of Aurangabad in Maharashtra state, Kumar said. He believes they were likely trying to get on a train that was going to their home state of Madhya Pradesh.
Lockdown measures differ from state to state in India, but throughout the country thousands of migrant workers found themselves stranded with no job, no income, and no mode of transportation to get home when the restrictions went into effect six weeks ago.
Authorities had organized special trains and buses so that they could get home, but those are only open to laborers who the government has identified and is allowing to return to their homes. There are only a limited number of seats available on these trains because authorities want passengers to maintain adequate distance between each other.