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Rediff.com  » News » Train mishap: 69 dead, 23 still unidentified

Train mishap: 69 dead, 23 still unidentified

Last updated on: July 11, 2011 19:21 IST

Search called off, train mishap toll 69

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As many as 69 dead bodies were extricated from the wreckage of the ill-fated Delhi-bound Howrah-Kalka Mail during the 24-hour long rescue operation that concluded under the leadership of Indian Army jawans on Monday afternoon near Malwan station in Fatehpur district, nearly 140 km from Lucknow.

"The search is now over and we have a final count of 69 dead and 196 injured victims," Fatehpur Additional District Magistrate Anil Kumar Pathak told rediff.com over the phone from the site of the accident.

"Bodies of 46 victims have been identified and arrangements were being currently made to put them in individual coffins so that these could be easily transported to their respective homes," special Director General of police Brij Lal disclosed.

"As for the remaining 23, we are making every possible effort to identify them, but the task seems difficult since most of these were passengers of the general compartment about whom even the railways do not have any records", he said, while expressing hope that their families would come looking for them after all the news on the media.

Railway authorities will now get down to the restoration of the rail track on which traffic was completely disrupted since 12.20 pm on Sunday when 14 coaches, along with the engine of  Kalka Mail, were derailed, leaving 69 passengers dead and 249 injured. The train was on its way from Howrah to Kalka via Delhi.

At least a dozen trains had to be cancelled on account of the mishap while nearly two dozen trains were diverted.

The operation was closed after a final nod came from Colonel A D S Dhillon, who was heading an army contingent detailed from Allahabad to carry out the task.

The army was assisted by a special team of the Union government's National Disaster Response Force which reached the site of the mishap late on Sunday night.

Reportage: Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow

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Image: People search through the mangled carriages of Kalka Mail
Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
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240 passengers injured in mishap

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The dead included two Swedish nationals, who were travelling in a second class reserved coach that was completely smashed in the accident. Their third companion was hospitalised with multiple injuries.

"While the two deceased Swedish nationals were identified as Victor and Wick, the survivor was identified as Oscar," said Fathepur Additional District Magistrate Anil Kumar Pathak.

The army on Monday also pressed its sniffer dogs into service to locate any dead bodies  trapped under the heaps of mangled metal.

As many as 240 passengers were injured in the mishap that occurred at 12.20 pm on Sunday. Over 100 of them were hospitalised in Fatehpur, Kanpur and Allahabad, while the rest were discharged after being administered first-aid, confirmed local officials.

Fatehpur's Chief Medical Officer K N Joshi said nearly 150 passengers were hospitalised with injuries ranging from amputations to fractures and multiple wounds.

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Image: People walk through the grass near the mangled carriages of Kalka Mail which derailed near Fatehpur
Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
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'What will I do now, where will I go'

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Some survivors were seen wailing and moaning at the site of the accident on Sunday night and even Monday morning, searching desperately for their family members who remained untraceable.

"I went to the hospital and have been running around the whole night looking for my brother," a sobbing Shahana, 14, told reporters at the site of the mishap. Her mother was killed in the accident while her father had to have his leg amputated.
Minutes later, as she discovered that one of the bodies being pulled out by the army personnel was that of her brother, she went into uncontrollable hysteria, crying, "What will I do now, where will I go?"

The accident, which took place on Sunday as the Kalka Mail was nearing the Malwa railway station in Fatehpur district, led to complete disruption of rail traffic on the busy Kolkata-Delhi main line. At least a dozen trains were cancelled and more than two dozen diverted.

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Image: People gather around the mangled carriages of Kalka Mail
Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
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Train was running at 108 km/hour

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As shocked passengers wriggled out of coaches after the accident, local villagers were the first to rush to the rescue of the victims. Many passengers complained that relief arrived too late and they had to fend for themselves for at least two hours before they received any kind of help from the authorities.

It took time for the railway staff to reach the site of the accident with the necessary equipment to cut the metal compartments with gas-cutters in order to extricate the trapped passengers.

The reason for the accident was not immediately clear. A senior railway official confirmed that the train was running at 108 km an hour when the driver applied emergency brakes near Malwa station, triggering the derailment.

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Image: People search through the mangled carriages of Kalka Mail
Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
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This year's worst train tragedy

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who currently holds the portfolio of Railways, expressed shock and grief over the disaster. The Centre as well as the Uttar Pradesh government quickly announced compensation for family members of the deceased and  the injured victims.

While some 200 policemen were rushed from Fatehpur, the rescue work was taken up on  a war footing after a unit of the Indian Army reached the site with nearly 180 troops. The Army troopers worked through the night, retrieving dead bodies and rushing the seriously injured for treatment.

Military helicopters ferried the seriously injured victims to hospitals in Lucknow and Allahabad.

The accident has been described as this year's worst tragedy for India's rail network, which is regarded as one of the largest in the world, ferrying nearly 1.4 crore passengers every day.

Meanwhile, minister of state for Railways KH Muniappa refused to comment on the reasons for the train tragedy, saying they would be known only after the probe is completed.

Munniappa, who arrived at Fatehpur on Sunday yesterday, said this during his visit to the district hospital to meet the injured. To questions about the findings of his ministry about the cause of derailment, he said it would be better to speak about them only  after the completion of the high-level inquiry which has already been ordered.

Munniappa, who accompanied UP Governor BL Joshi to the hospital, said that at the moment it was necessary that every possible help is extended to the affected families.            

The governor expressed satisfaction with the relief and rescue operations and said that all-out efforts were on.


Image: People watch as rescue personnel search for survivors in the mangled carriages of Kalka Mail
Photographs: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
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