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Konkan Railway mishap toll rises to 51,
rain hampering salvage operations

Parikshit Joshi in Kankavli | June 24, 2003 18:29 IST

Massive rescue and salvage operations were underway in pouring rains on Tuesday between Vaibhavwadi and Rajapur stations, where the Karwar-Mumbai Holiday Special derailed on Sunday night.

The toll in the first major rail disaster on the Konkan Railway network rose to 51, including nine children and six women.

The train was moving at a speed of 75kms per hour when the engine hit a boulder and derailed. The general compartment, just behind the guard's cabin, was the worst affected as the next three coaches jumped over it.

This also made difficult the task of identifying bodies as most of the victims were from the general compartment.

Konkan Railway Chief Medical Officer Dr V R Vatsal said most of the victims suffered multiple injuries.

The injured have been admitted to various hospitals in Kankavli, Oros, Rajapur and in the Goa Medical College in Panjim.

Nearly 150 personnel of the Signals Training Centre in Panjim had rushed to the spot and helped railway personnel remove bodies from the affected coaches and took the injured to hospitals.

Regional Railway Manager (KR) D R Shyamsunder told PTI that the badly mangled coaches would be removed from the tracks later on Tuesday.

"Fortunately, there is not much damage to the railway track and we are hopeful that the rail service could be restored at the earliest," he said.

A huge mass of the muck has to be removed from the railway track after which, senior Konkan Railway officials said, the track would be inspected, possibly on Wednesday, before services are restored.

Vatsal, who is camping at the accident site, said the possibility of more bodies being found was remote.

"The  damaged bogies have been removed from the track, only general compartment and engine remain," he said.

The railway officials admitted that casualties could have been higher had the landslide occurred after the train had entered the tunnel.

Unfortunately, the railway officials had not identified the accident spot as 'vulnerable' and the hillock adjoining the tunnel did not have the protective net seen in many parts of the route.

There are nearly 46 such vulnerable spots on the 760km Konkan railway route.

"KR has got the most difficult terrain in the entire country and we remain extremely vigilant all the time," Deputy Chief Security Commissioner Alok Bohra told PTI.

Shyamsunder said only KR has a geologist, S V Mahalank, who was at the site overseeing rescue and relief operations.

The loose red soil, along with the basalt rock, has started sinking as the region had received about 190mm of rainfall in the three days prior to the mishap.

Shyamsunder met the driver of the ill-fated train, C K Johnson, who is recuperating at a hospital in Panjim.

Just as the train reached near the tunnel, there was a heavy landslide and the speeding train hit a boulder causing the engine to derail and hit the wall of the tunnel.

Johnson had seen the muck on the track and tried to apply the brakes. But as the train was moving at around 75km per hour, it could not stop on time.

Assistant engine driver R K Gupta and the guard of the train are reportedly out of danger.

Railway Minister Nitish Kumar has described the accident as the result of 'nature's fury' but has nevertheless instituted a probe.

The Karwar-Mumbai Central Holiday Special was to have its last run on June 29.

Konkan Railway web site 
More reports from Maharashtra

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