Srivaikuntam railway staffers rewarded for safeguarding passengers, averting major disaster

“My cabin was constantly crowded with people demanding food and milk for children and the elderly on December 18,” recalls Ali. 
A Jawber Ali, Srivaikuntam railway station superintendent, worked for 54 hours without food.
A Jawber Ali, Srivaikuntam railway station superintendent, worked for 54 hours without food.

CHENNAI: The station superintendent and track maintainer at the Srivaikuntam railway station were honoured by Southern Railways with a cash reward of Rs 5,000 each for their exceptional efforts during the recent rains. 

A Jawber Ali, station superintendent, worked for 54 hours without food, managing the station and around 500 stranded passengers for three days. 

K Selvakumar, the track maintainer, raised alarm about washed-out portions of the track on the Srivaikuntam-Seydunganallur section during the heavy floods on December 17. He helped avert potential mishaps on the Tiruchendur-Tirunelveli stretch.

There were 800 passengers on the Chennai-bound Chendur Express when it was halted at Srivaikuntam on December 17. 

Additionally, 12 other railway staffers who served during the rains were rewarded Rs 2,500 each, according to an official release issued by the zonal railway. 

Ali (54) managed the irate passengers, who were stranded for over 36 hours without food.

“My cabin was constantly crowded with people demanding food and milk for children and the elderly on December 18,” recalls Ali. 

Besides answering passengers, Ali also had to coordinate with railway officials using the railway phone, the only network that was available for communication then.

While 300 passengers were relocated to a relief centre on December 18, 500 were stranded at the railway station until 6.30 pm on December 19. Nearly seven trains pass through Srivaikuntam station, which is not equipped to manage a large volume of passengers.

Ali, who reached his office at 1.30 pm on December 17, only left after the stranded passengers were relocated on December 19. 

Speaking to TNIE, Ali said that the challenging part was while everyone needed help, none were in a position to assist. “Some passengers were petrified after attempts to shift them to a nearby relief centre failed as water levels were high on road bridge. As food did not arrive on December 18, passengers became anxious and impatient. There was no power on the train. Sleep deprived and worried, some passengers began walking on the track with their luggage when the water levels receded.”

Meanwhile, Selvakumar walked through the track between Srivaikuntam station and Seydunganallur station, before noticing that the concrete sleepers were dislodged. The track platform and ballasts had been washed away at multiple locations. He alerted the section engineer, following which the train was cancelled. 

“The Chendur Express left Nazareth station at 9 pm, while the section engineer received the alert about the track at 9.12 pm. Had the information been relayed slightly earlier, the train could have halted at Nazareth station, which is better equipped to handle such a large volume of passengers,” said Ali. 

The other railway staffers who received the cash reward are M Sankara Nainar, U Sasikumar, I Abraham, Shijo Thomas, Shaju, A Ayyasamy, S Sunder, K Meenakshi Sundaram, S Elamaran, J Wilson Peter, Vinit Kumar and S Ravikumar. 

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