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Real heroes: 'I saw them crying for help'
Vijay Singh in Raigad | June 17, 2004 12:54 IST
Last Updated: June 17, 2004 17:57 IST
June 16, 6.10am. Running late, the Mangalore-Mumbai Matsyagandha Express was speeding towards its destination on Wednesday when it derailed near Karanjadi railway station in Maharashtra's Raigad district.
The accident spot is surrounded by hilly terrain with only about 10 to 15 families living in a village nearby.
They did not have any equipment handy to rescue the passengers trapped in the coaches, two of which were standing vertically perched precariously against either side of a viaduct.
The nearest town was Mahad, about 10km away. Woken up by the loud noise, they rushed out of their homes to find out what caused it.
On reaching the bridge, they saw people hanging out from the coaches crying for help.
Ashok Shivaram Jhadav, who was the first to reach the spot, said, "When I reached the spot with a few other people, I saw passengers crying for help. Some had fallen out of the train and were lying on the ground or in the water below the bridge. Since the coaches were poised rather precariously, we were not sure whether to go ahead and rescue the passengers. What if the coaches fell down? We feared for our lives. However, the passengers' desperate cries for help forced us to take the risk and approach the coaches. We brought out the injured engine driver and guard. The latter used his phone to inform railway authority about the accident."
"Later, one of the villagers brought a wooden ladder from one of the houses. It came handy in rescuing some passengers trapped inside the coaches. I saw that some people were stuck in the windows. We cut the window rods with whatever instruments we had and brought those people out."
Jadhav's elder son has a contract with Konkan Railway for patrolling the track.
Sameer Jadhav said, "If the accident had taken place at night or after 9am, we would not have been around to help the passengers because in such places you can't do anything at night, and after 9am most of us would have left for our fields."
Passengers travelling in the rear coaches suffered only minor injuries. They were the first to help the passengers trapped in the worst affected coaches till railway officials managed to mount rescue operations around 9am.
"A pregnant woman had fallen out of the train. Her dead body was lying in the water. When we rescued her husband, he went to see her first. After coming to know about her death, he began crying. He told us that he had been holding on to her hands but lost his grip after some time and she fell down. He cried for long. We brought him to our house and gave him a cup of tea. He later left with members of rescue workers along with his wife's body," said Vasanti Jadhav.
Another villager Rajendra said, "Some passengers had fallen into the water. We brought them out. Some of them had died, but some were alive. We did not have any equipment or first aid to help them. Rescue workers reached the spot after 9am by which time many people had lost their lives."
As soon as people in nearby areas heard about the accident, they reached the spot with their vehicles to help the affected people.
The passengers in the general compartment in the coach right behind the engine bore the brunt when the Mangalore-Mumbai Matsyagandha Express hit some boulders, derailed and fell off a viaduct.
Fourteen people lost their lives and 62 were injured in the accident.
One of the lucky ones who got away without a scratch was 2-month-old Arif.
"Most of us were sleeping. I was feeding my baby when I suddenly heard some unusual sound and felt some vibration. The next moment, the coach had run off the track and ended up hanging precariously from a bridge. I lost my baby. I did not know where he disappeared. I was injured and tried to extricate myself from the mess," said Sara.
The engine had fallen off and the two coaches behind had fallen on either side of the bridge and were precariously poised vertically.
The passengers inside cried out for help for over 45 minutes till nearby residents rescued them.
"After coming out of the coach with the help of the locals, I was crying for my newborn baby. I had not seen him since the accident. Out of nowhere, somebody put my baby in my arms. I did not see the person because there was a lot of movement of people at that time owing to the rescue work. On examining the child, I was surprised to find that he didn't suffer any injury," she said.
Sara lives with her husband Yusuf in Kurla, Mumbai. They had gone to their native place Mangalore for a vacation and were returning with her parents.
She has three children: Asif (4), Ayesha (2) and her newborn baby Arif. The family was seated together at the time of the accident. She suffered injuries to the back, and her father and Ayesha to the head.
Her husband and mother suffered critical injuries and the former was shifted to Sion Hospital in Mumbai. Sara does not know the whereabouts of her mother. Arif and Asif survived without any injuries.
Sara's three children were with her in the government hospital in Mahad. They seemed shaken by the experience. When Sara left them for a minute to fulfill some hospital formalities and to get details of her husband, they all started crying loudly.
Her husband works as a mechanic in Kurla.
Sara's father received Rs 15,000 from Konkan Railway, which handed over Rs 5,000 in cash to each injured and 15,000 to the seriously injured. It served to boost her confidence, enough to begin a search to locate the family's belongings.
Likhil Krishna and Sunil were also the lucky ones. They had boarded the train at Mangalore and were to appear for an interview in a shipping company in Mumbai.
The train was running two hours late but they hoped to make it on time for the interview on Wednesday.
But instead, they were among those trapped in the two coaches that were poised vertically against either side of the bridge. Both suffered leg injuries.
Disappointed they phoned the shipping company about their inability to attend their interview. "They told us that they would hold it some time later," a visibly relieved and a smiling Likhil said.
For Likhil and Sunil there was a silver lining amid the ruins. But for many it was a day of darkness, gloom and overwhelming tragedy.
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