VIZIANAGARAM: The toll in the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express has climbed to 36, the East Coast Railways officials confirmed on Sunday. The incident has left over 100 passengers injured place after the Express train number 18448 derailed near Kuneru in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh around midnight Saturday. The impact was severe particularly in compartments S8 and S9 of the train which fell on a goods train passing by on the parallel track.
Around 40 persons were critically injured and they have been rushed to hospitals at Rayagada, Parvatipuram, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam. The condition of at least seven of them is said to be grave. Officials feared the toll could rise.
The derailment occurred between 11.30 pm and midnight when the train was on its way to Bhubaneswar from Jagdalpur.
A majority of the victims are from Odisha.
Of the 22 compartments in the train, eight coaches including a two-tier AC coach, a three-tier AC coach, two sleeper coaches, two general coaches, a luggage van, the guard's cabin and the locomotive itself came off the rails.
As the incident occurred near a CRPF camp in Kuneru, the paramilitary personnel were the first to reach the spot, Andhra Pradesh DGP N Sambasiva Rao said. Around 16 ambulances were pressed into service to shift the injured to the hospitals. "Our police personnel along with CRPF, Railway Police and Railway Protection Force succeeded in rescuing a majority of the victims. The bodies have been retrieved from the mangled compartments of S8 and S9," he added.
The officials suspect that at least five-six bodies are still stuck under the derailed compartments.
A team of doctors has reached the accident site. The administrations of both Vizianagaram and Rayagada districts are taking an active part in the rescue operation. Waltair divisional railway manager Chandralekha Mukherjee also rushed to the spot along with a railway medical team.
Chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu expressed shock over the incident and asked the officials to ensure effective relief and rehabilitation efforts for rail accident victims. He asked the DGP to hand over all bodies to bereaved families immediately in close coordination with Odisha police without any delay.
Besides requesting railway minister Suresh Prabhu to expedite all measures for restoration of trains, Naidu spoke to Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and assured all possible assistance.
Amidst speculations over sabotage, the CM has reportedly ordered for a police probe into the mishap. He wanted the state police to investigate all aspects of the case.
Train services were affected on Rayagada and Vijayanagaram route, with several trains diverted. Alternate transportation including buses has been arranged by the authorities for shifting the other passengers to Brahmapur, Palasa and Vizianagaram.