HARDA: Twenty-nine people were killed as two express trains derailed within minutes of each other on flooded tracks while crossing a railway bridge in Harda district of Madhya Pradesh in the dead of night and plunged into the swollen Machak river.
There were conflicting versions on the number of casualties in the twin derailment at around 1130 pm last night involving the Varanasi-bound Kamayani Express from Mumbai and the Mumbai-bound Janta express that originated from Patna. The accident occurred between Khirkiya and Bhirangi stations on Khandwa-Irasi sections, 160 km from Bhopal.
MP Government spokesman Anupam Rajan said, "29 bodies, including those of 13 men, 11 women and five children, have been recovered so far from the mishap site between Khirkiya and Harda, about 160 km from Bhopal."
Over 250 passengers have been rescued, a railway official said.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, however, told Parliament that 12 passengers were killed.
"The prima facie cause of the incident is stated to be 'flash flood due to heavy rains'," Prabhu told the Rajya Sabha amid the din by slogan-shouting opposition members.
The Railway Ministry has ordered an inquiry into the twin derailment and announced an enhanced ex-gratia of Rs two lakh each to the next of the kin of deceased.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed distress and pain over the loss of lives in the accidents and said authorities are doing everything possible on the ground.
Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Bhopal, Alok Kumar said, "11 passengers of Janata Express and one from Kamayani Express were found dead. About rest, we are not sure whether they were local villagers or some other persons."
Though the state government said that 21 coaches of the two trains derailed, the DRM said seven bogies of the Janata Express plus engine and 10 of Kamayani Express derailed.
According to Central Railway PRO Piyush Mathur, seven coaches of Kamayani Express and three bogies plus engine of the Rajendra Nagar(Patna)-Mumbai Janata Express had derailed.
Commissioner Railway Safety (central zone) will conduct an inquiry into the accidents, Railway Spokesperson Anil Saxena said.
The official said just eight minutes before the accident, two trains had crossed that section and their drivers did not detect any problem.