Odisha train crash: Traumatic ride for drivers ferrying bodies outside the state

The experience of carrying the mortal remains of victims of the Bahanaga train accident has been traumatising and physically draining for ambulance drivers
A body being taken out of deep freeze container before handling over to the next kins at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar. (Photo | Debadatta Mallick, EPS)
A body being taken out of deep freeze container before handling over to the next kins at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar. (Photo | Debadatta Mallick, EPS)

BHUBANESWAR: Ferrying decomposed bodies isn't anything new for brothers Muna Nayak and Sagar
Nayak, both ambulance drivers from Bhanjanagar. But this time, the experience of carrying the mortal remains of victims of the Bahanaga train accident has been traumatising and physically draining for both.

Muna has just returned from Bihar after transporting a body to a village near Patna while Sagar is on his way to Nepal for ferrying the body of a victim. In their mid-20s, they work for a private agency that looks into ambulance requirements at the Capital Hospital.

Muna drove at a stretch for more than 900 km on Monday night. "Because the stench of decomposing flesh was unbearable for both me and the deceased's relative and we had to reach early. After reaching the village on Tuesday evening, the family asked me to take the body directly to the burial ground because the final rituals could not be performed at home owing to the condition of the body and odour," Muna said.

He drove back to Bhubaneswar immediately considering that he would be required again for the work at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar.

For Sagar, too, this is the first time he has carried a decomposing body to a place as far as Nepal. And this is his second such trip this week. He ferried a body to Bihar on Monday and took another to Nepal on Thursday.

"I hadn't experienced a human tragedy as humongous as this accident. While the entire state is helping the people who have been affected by it, we are contributing by taking the victims on their last journey back home," he said over the phone. Sagar had already travelled 1,200 km with the body with just a 10-minute break in between for tea.

After the bodies were shifted from Balasore to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, the state government announced a free ambulance service to transport the mortal remains of victims who lost their lives in the Bahanaga train accident. Like Muna and Sagar, there are several more ambulance drivers in the state who are currently on the job.

State Transport Commissioner Amitabh Thakur informed that both 108 and private ambulances are being used to send the mortal remains of victims to their destinations.

"Only one body has been sent to Nepal so far," he said and added that while 108 ambulances are ferrying the bodies to districts within the state, private ambulances are being used to send the bodies to the other states.

As per the arrangement, if more than one family member of the victim has come to collect the body, only one of them is allowed to accompany the body in the ambulance while the state government is providing railway tickets free of cost to the others to go back home.

Immediately after the accident, 96 108 ambulances were used to bring 193 bodies to Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, Thakur informed.

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