BENGALURU: Labour Minister Santosh Lad, who rushed to Bahanaga, Odisha, following the disastrous accident involving three trains, said it was a traumatic experience. “While I was relieved to learn that the bogie carrying passengers from Karnataka was safe, I was saddened to see so much pain and death around,” Lad said. He spoke exclusively to TNIE after his return from the site of the accident, which claimed 288 lives and left more than 900 people injured.
Following CM Siddaramaiah’s instructions, Lad left for Odisha on a specially chartered aircraft on Saturday night and was there for about two days.
The minister says the mortuary was ill-equipped to handle the rush of bodies. More than 200 badly mutilated bodies were kept in the mortuary, which did not have adequate ice boxes or cold storage facilities. Traumatised people ran around, hunting for their dead relatives’ remains from among the pile of unrecognisable bodies.
“I went to the mortuary myself, trying to see if there were any identification clues on the unidentified bodies, like a piece of paper in a pocket with something in Kannada, or any identity card. The stench was unbearable because it was already four days, and the bodies had begun to decompose badly. The mortuary had inadequate facilities, and the melted ice had formed a pool of water. We had to wade through it to look for victims’ bodies.’’
It has been said that the bodies were removed with little sensitivity. On the lack of equipment to rescue victims, Lad said that gas cutters could have been used to rescue victims, especially anyone who could have been trapped inside the bogies. “They could have been more sensitive and used advanced equipment to cut through the solid steel, instead of just using earthmovers,” Lad said.
On the thumb rule of disaster management that VVIPs should not venture into accident areas, as they take the focus away from rescue and relief efforts, the minister said, “It is true that VVIPs or the PM should not visit the accident spot because it acts as a distraction. I was informed by Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw not to go near the mangled bogies and I kept away.”