Even as the toll in the Tamil Nadu Express fire mishap rose to 33 on Friday, about 10 families are claiming the four bodies that are with the railway authorities.
Officials say the results of DNA test are awaited for the identification of the bodies.
Sambasiva Rao, from Duvvanapudi in Pedaparupudi mandal of Krishna district, succumbed to the burns sustained in the fire accident, at a hospital in Chennai on Friday. He was shifted to Chennai two days ago after his condition deteriorated.
Officials said the body was handed over to the bereaved family members. However, the agonising wait for 10 other families continues even as the officials are unable to confirm the identity of the bodies for want of evidence.
The situation is far worse for the families of the deceased who travelled in the the S11 compartment without reservation. The officials are refusing even to declare their death as they do not have any proof of these passengers travelling in the train.
On July 30, the railway authorities announced the death of 32 passengers but minutes later, Union minister for railways Mukul Roy declared the toll as 28, creating confusion over the exact number of the deceased.
Adding to it, more than 28 families arrived in Nellore to claim the 28 bodies of the deceased available with railway officials.
So far 24 bodies have been handed over to relatives.
However, about 10 families continue to claim the remaining four bodies, with some of them pleading with the authorities to help them trace their dear ones who boarded the train without reservation.
Ironically, most of these ‘missing’ passengers boarded the train at Warangal and Vijayawada where, according to their family members, the travelling ticket examiner (TTE) promised to ‘arrange’ for their seating in the next station.
“My son Avinash was working as software engineer in Chennai and came home to spend the weekend with the family in Warangal.
He had no reservation, but the TTE assured him a berth at Vijayawada station following which my son boarded the S11 compartment.
His decision proved fatal and we are not even able to get his mortal remains to conduct the funeral rites properly,” lamented Gouri Shankar, assistant registrar at the School of Distance Learning and Continuing Education, Kakatiya University.
Gouri Shankar approached the Railway Safety Commission on Friday, but in vain.
When contacted, assistant railway divisional manager B Subba Rao defended the decision of the railway authorities in announcing officially that 28 persons died in the incident against the earlier figure of 32.
He admitted that the rescue teams indeed reported to have found a mixture of charred remains of some people but were unable to recover them from the train.
“The charred remains were nothing but a mixture of ashes and it was impossible to separate and identify them through DNA tests,” he told Express.
He suspected that the remains might have belonged to the passengers who boarded the train without reservation, but expressed helplessness as they were irrecoverable.
Agreeing with the ADRM, district collector B Sridhar told Express that 32 persons were said to have died in the S11 compartment within an hour of the fire mishap.
“As many as 28 bodies were recovered from the compartment till 2 pm next day. The rescue teams made all attempts to recover the ‘ashes’ suspected to have belonged to four passengers, but in vain.
As they were travelling without reservation, we cannot declare their deaths officially in the absence of any evidence about them being on board,” he said.