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Gasps, silence as passenger trains cross Odisha crash site

By Kaveri Kumar
Last updated on: June 05, 2023 23:12 IST
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Some passengers gasped. Others muttered 'Jagannath Jagannath'. Most were too stunned to say anything as everyone gazed out of the windows.

IMAGE: An RPF personnel keeps watch as Coromandel Express train leaves from Bahanaga Bazar railway station after train services resumed on the section where the accident happened on Friday, in Balasore district, Monday, June 5, 2023. Photograph: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI Photo

The Vande Bharat express had slowed down to a crawl as it passed by the site of Friday night's train crash near Bahanga Bazar station, providing passengers a close up glimpse of the evidence of the horror -- a few upturned coaches, a crane and workers cleaning up the site.

The Howrah-Puri Vande Bharat on Monday was the first passenger train to pass through the area in day time after authorities opened the tracks following the accident, which killed 275 people and injured more than 1,200.


"Ish," said Kanika Chaudhury, 56, using the Bengali expression to convey shock, adding 'dekhle koshto hoy (Its painful to watch)'.

The railway authorities had on Sunday informed passengers through a group SMS that the train would leave on time.

The train left on time from Howrah station at 6.10 am but no one was sure of the route it would take as news on the state of the tracks which had broken up because of the accident which claimed 275 lives was unknown.

Passengers were heard discussing the route it might take, especially as the display board in the compartment showed it was travelling at a speed of over 110 km per hour.

The majority of the passengers were bound for Puri, the sea side pilgrim town and a favourite go-to-destination for tourists in eastern India.

However, after the train reached Kharagpur the announcements that the next station would be Baleswar made the passengers rush to the large windows of the train, ready with their mobile phones.

The train speed was still between 110 km and 122 km.

The train reached Kantapara station, a few km ahead of Bahanaga Bazar and stopped for a brief time.

"Just four minutes away," said Bimal Saha , a young man in hushed tones after checking on the Google map on his phone.

The speed as the train crawled forward was now down to 20 to 25 kmph and all eyes were fixed at the scene that unfolded outside.

When the train crossed the first mangled coach lying next to the up track at around 9.25 am, on which Coromondal Express travelled that fateful night, not one man or woman spoke.

Mobile cameras were switched on by almost all of them.

The mangled compartments lying next to the up railway line presented an apocalyptic sight for about the next 25 minutes.

The railway authorities have screened off the area with green cloth but the eyes sought out the twisted and mangled steel.

The sight was bizarre as most of them lay capsized, one after another, with their heavy steel underbelly and the wheels protruding into the sky. Almost all gasped, as the enormity of the accident seeped in.

Though every passenger had read about in newspapers or watched its aftermath on their television sets, the actual dimensions sunk in as the vista unfolded.

The Coromandel Express had crashed into a stationary goods train, derailing most of its coaches at 7 pm on June 2.

A few coaches of the Coromandel toppled over the last few coaches of the Bengaluru-Howrah express which was passing by at the same time in the opposite direction, turning it into a devastating triple train crash.

There were a large number of policemen at the site and members of the electronic media were visible in sizeable numbers. A number of them were even seen taking shots of the passing Vande Bharat Express.

There were also a large number of laborers, many of whom who had their noses covered to perhaps keep out the stench.

A few capsized compartments could also be seen lying next to the down track on which the ill- fated Bangalore-Howrah-Yashwantpur Express was travelling Friday evening.

As the train moved through the spot at slow speed, there was no jerk at all.

"Undoubtedly, the railway engineers have done a great job. But wish our systems are more advanced to prevent any collision," said Kanika Chaudhury. "So many lives lost, so many families affected," sighed her daughter Soumika, a graphic designer.

"This is too painful to be watched, let alone from the comfortable confines of the Vande Bharat," said Saha, who had remained glued to the window for quite sometime to catch a glimpse of just the scene which was now upsetting him.

No other train was seen at the spot. Just two to three trains were seen between Howrah and Kharagpur, one being the Baghajatin Express from Bhadrak to Howrah.

As the train reached Soro, the next station, it picked up speed. At Soro too a large number of laborers were seen waiting with their bags. Perhaps to work at the accident site for next few days.

The board flashing the speed now read over 100 km and the train continued its journey to its destination. The train reached Puri, 50 minutes late at 1.05 hours.

Other trains to Puri like Shree Jagannath Express, Sealdah-Puri Duranto Express and Howrah-Puri Express on Monday have been canceled.

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Kaveri Kumar
Source: PTI© Copyright 2023 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.