A sense of distress and confusion prevailed in front of the Victoria Hospital mortuary here on Saturday afternoon. Relatives of the victims of the charred B1 AC coach waited restlessly for the arrival of the bodies from Puttaparthi.
From police constables to senior police officers, the relatives tried to contact everyone to obtain clarity on the status of their loved ones. And all were clinging to hope that the names of their kith and kin would not appear on the list of the deceased. Apparently, no such list was available with the police at that time. The only list that they had was the reservation chart provided by railway officials. Since the bodies were charred beyond recognition, identification was difficult for the authorities. The only way they identified the victims was by cross-checking against the reservation list of the burnt coach.
The number of relatives kept increasing by the hour and so did their grief and anxiety. “It has been 12 hours and I do not know if they are alive,” said a disappointed Sheshappan. His niece Srilatha (26) and her husband Srinivas (28), both techies from Bangalore, were on board the ill-fated train.
“Shubhash Reddy Patil, Director of Karnataka Co-operative Federation, attended a meeting on Friday. He was on the waiting list, but he swapped his seat with Suresh Patil who was booked on the A/C coach, after consulting the ticket examiner. His status is still unknown to us,” said some members of the Federation.
Dr Asra’s sister was the first one to reach the mortuary to identify the body. “She was here with us just yesterday and it is shocking to hear this. She had booked a tatkal ticket,” she said. Along with Dr Asra was her two-and-a-half-year-old son Mohammed and her brother-in-law Ibrahim. “Two days ago, Rahul flew to Bangalore from the US and was heading to his hometown Raichur. We are very anxious about his condition,” said Satish, part of Rahul Pattangir’s extended family. An untitled list on the police helpdesk led Swapnil, a batchmate of Anirudh Kulkarni, one of the victims, to panic. “The list read only Kulkarni. Please tell me the full name,” he enquired, anxiously.
As the bodies started arriving later in the day, clueless relatives went about making inquiries everywhere, leading to chaos. The police finally had to bring the situation under control. The relatives were then taken to identify the bodies. Additional Divisional Railway Manager Sunanda, addressing the press, said, “The bodies are charred beyond recognition and only DNA tests can confirm the identities.”