AP Photos: India's vast railway system closes to passengers

In this Monday, March 23, 2020, photo, a passenger walks past railway tracks at the deserted New Delhi Railway station during a lockdown amid concerns...
Trains stand parked at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus after the country halted its railway network in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. In...
FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, railway workers wearing masks push a handcart at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai, India. India's ...
FILE- In this Tuesday, March 24, 2020, file photo, railway officials walk through a deserted railway station in Prayagraj, India. India's colossal pas...
FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, a homeless woman sleeps on a deserted platform of Lokmanya Tilak train terminus in Mumbai, India. I...
FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, passengers wearing masks look out from a train in Jammu, India. India's colossal passenger railway ...
FILE- In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, an Indian railways employee sits at a coronavirus help desk at the deserted New Delhi Railway statio...
FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, file photo, Indians hang out from an overcrowded train to travel home for the Chhath Puja festival dedicated to ...
FILE - In this Wednesday, July 11, 2012, file photo, Indian commuters wait for trains at the Churchgate railway station in Mumbai, India. India's colo...
FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2013, file photo, Indian commuters get off trains at the Church Gate railway station in Mumbai, India. India's colossal passen...
FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, file photo, Indian passengers travel in an overcrowded train at the New Delhi railway station, in New Delhi, Ind...
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2012, file photo, Indians look out from an overcrowded train to travel home for the Chhath Puja festival dedicated to the Sun ...
FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012, file photo, Indian Hindu devotees sit on the roof of a train as they leave after attending Shivratri festival f...
This combination photo made of two images shows a crowd on a normal day at Church Gate railway station on Feb. 11, 2013, left, and the same station se...

In this Monday, March 23, 2020, photo, a passenger walks past railway tracks at the deserted New Delhi Railway station during a lockdown amid concerns...

Trains stand parked at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus after the country halted its railway network in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. In...

FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, railway workers wearing masks push a handcart at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus in Mumbai, India. India's ...

FILE- In this Tuesday, March 24, 2020, file photo, railway officials walk through a deserted railway station in Prayagraj, India. India's colossal pas...

FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, a homeless woman sleeps on a deserted platform of Lokmanya Tilak train terminus in Mumbai, India. I...

FILE - In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, passengers wearing masks look out from a train in Jammu, India. India's colossal passenger railway ...

FILE- In this Monday, March 23, 2020, file photo, an Indian railways employee sits at a coronavirus help desk at the deserted New Delhi Railway statio...

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 16, 2012, file photo, Indians hang out from an overcrowded train to travel home for the Chhath Puja festival dedicated to ...

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 11, 2012, file photo, Indian commuters wait for trains at the Churchgate railway station in Mumbai, India. India's colo...

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2013, file photo, Indian commuters get off trains at the Church Gate railway station in Mumbai, India. India's colossal passen...

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 31, 2011, file photo, Indian passengers travel in an overcrowded train at the New Delhi railway station, in New Delhi, Ind...

FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2012, file photo, Indians look out from an overcrowded train to travel home for the Chhath Puja festival dedicated to the Sun ...

FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012, file photo, Indian Hindu devotees sit on the roof of a train as they leave after attending Shivratri festival f...

This combination photo made of two images shows a crowd on a normal day at Church Gate railway station on Feb. 11, 2013, left, and the same station se...

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's colossal passenger railway system has come to a halt as officials take emergency measures to keep the coronavirus pandemic from spreading in the country of 1.3 billion.

The railway system is often described as India's lifeline, transporting 23 million people across the vast subcontinent each day, some 8.4 billion passengers each year.

India’s rail network, the world’s fourth largest, operates more than 12,100 trains carrying passengers and cargo along 67,415 kilometers (41,890 miles) of track. With more than 1.2 million employees, it is the country’s largest employer.

The lifeline was cut Sunday, leaving hundreds of people stranded at railway stations, hoping to be carried onward by buses or taxis that appeared unlikely to arrive.

The New Delhi Railway Station — usually populated 24 hours a day with railway staff, shops selling snacks and newspapers, passengers crammed into waiting rooms and indigent people sleeping on the platform — was barren.

As local governments tightened restrictions on movement, migrant workers hauling backpacks swarmed overcrowded trains across many Indian cities, an exodus among panic-stricken day laborers that sparked fears the virus could spread to the countryside.

Even more drastic measures have followed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide “total lockdown” for 21 days starting Wednesday, ordering one-fifth of the world's population to stay in place.

Health officials have reported 512 cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, and at least nine deaths.

From India's first documented case of infection, it took 50 days for the total caseload to cross 200. In the past five days, the number of cases has crossed 500.