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LUCKNOW: In a major train tragedy 125 people were killed and about 250 injured when 14 coaches of Indore-Patna Express (Train no. 19321) derailed at Pukhraya in Kanpur Dehat district – about 150 km from Lucknow-- at 3:10 am on Sunday.
With the number of casualties going up with each passing hour, so far 103 bodies, of which 37 were identified, had been extricated from under the debris of the mangled coaches. Coaches S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6 along with four AC compartments and four general bogies were the worst affected especially the sleeper S3.
"Following the derailment, the S2 coach climbed atop S3," said a railway officer supervising rescue operations.
Rail fracture due to contraction of the tracks could be the cause of the accident as the train was running at a high speed of 110 km per hour, said a railway source, however, the possibility of sabotage was ruled out.
Railway department has ordered an inquiry into the accident. It will be conducted by Commissioner, Railway Safety at Kanpur on November 22 and November 23. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha, while talking to the media persons present on the spot, said Rail fracture seemed to be the cause of the accident, however, railway officials would find out the real cause and action would be taken against those responsible.
Confirming the death toll, UP Additional DG Daljeet Chaudhary said: ”Rescue operations are being carried out on a far footing and the entire state machinery has been pressed into action for relief work.” Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav had directed DGP Javeed Hameed to monitor the situation personally.
"Initially, locals villagers rushed to the spot and started pulling out the people –both dead and injured—from the damaged coaches with the help of district police and fire department. They were later assisted by NDRS, NCC, NSS volunteers and school children. There were many people trapped inside 14 derailed coaches and death toll is likely to go up," said ASP Kanpur Manoj Sonker.
Police teams from neighbouring Kanpur and Orai districts were also rushed to the spot to assisted the rescue workers.
A column comprising a team of 90 army personnel accompanied by a medical column of four doctors, 20 paramedics and two ambulances from Kanpur were also deployed at the accident site for rescue and relief.
All the government and private hospital in and around Kanpur have been put on alert to provide immediate medical aid to the injured. Army and air force ambulances, train ambulances besides vans and buses were lined up to ferry the injured to nearby hospitals.
“Over 100 passengers are grievously injured,” said IG (Kanpur range) Zaki Ahmad adding that 150 others escaped with minor injuries in the mishap. "Over 30 ambulances have been pressed into action, the injured are being rushed to nearby hospitals,” he added.
Huge cranes and gas cutters were used to cut through the twisted metal of the coaches to reach the survivors and to extricate the bodies. With several passengers feared trapped, cold cutters were also used to find a way through the damaged compartments as gas cutters were producing excessive heat leading to suffocation.
"The rescue teams are also deploying hydraulic equipment to ensure that all the trapped passengers are evacuated safely from the affected coaches ," said NDRF DG, RK Pachnanda, present on the accident site.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and leaders cutting across the party lines, expressed profound grief over the loss of lives in the train tragedy.
While the Railway Minister announced an ex gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh to the families of the dead, Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave Rs 2 lakh to next kin of those dead from his Contingency Fund.
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav shelled out a compensation of Rs five lakh to the dependents of the dead in the accident while MP CM Shivraj Singh Chuahan announced a relief of Rs two lakh.
The UP government will also give Rs 50,000 to those seriously injured and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries.
The Chief Minister also directed the officials concerned to deploy traffic police along the route of the mishap site to ensure green corridor for ambulances to reach hospitals quickly. DG Health also rushed to the accident site to oversee the operations.
Railways issued following helpline numbers:
North Central Railway General Manager Arun Srivastava said traffic on Kanpur-Jhansi section will be opened in 36 hours. However, several trains remained cancelled including Pushpak Express and many were diverted on Kanpur- Jhansi section due to the tragedy.