Horrific pile-up; Toll rises to 288
People and vehicles, including some auto rickshaws which were halted at both sides of the railway gate, were the first responders.
BAHANAGA: Over 900 injured, at least 250 of them critically; harrowing scenes as desperate Relatives look for near and dear ones among bodies piled up alongside the tracks; Modi visits accident site, says guilty will be punished
With the first light of dawn on Saturday, a tragedy of unimaginable proportions unfolded at Bahanaga railway station, about 180 km from Bhubaneswar. Amid frantic efforts by the rescue teams to find survivors trapped under the mangled coaches of Coromandel Express and Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, relatives from different parts of West Bengal and Odisha desperately searched for their near and dear ones among piled up bodies alongside the scattered tracks at the station that was a mute witness to one of the worst rail disasters the country has ever seen.
There were scenes of chaos and despair as trapped passengers screamed for help but the rescue teams were either unable to move the capsized coaches or cut iron railings due to lack of required machinery and gas cutters. By the time the men and machinery were mobilised, many had already succumbed.
As many as 288 passengers were killed and over 900 others injured, at least 250 of them critically, after the Coromandel Express rammed into a stationary goods train near the station and jumped off the track around 7 pm on Friday evening. Its derailed coaches hit the Bengaluru-Howrah Daily Superfast Express which was passing by at the very moment. Of the 21 coaches of Coromandel Express, 15 (B4 to B13 and S1 to S5) capsized and its engine went up and landed on the goods train in the impact of the collision. Two general compartments of the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express also got derailed after some of the capsized coaches of Coromandel Express collided with them.
Eyewitnesses said Coromandel Express shook like a snake after hitting the goods train and four of its coaches moved out of the railway station boundary. “The derailment occurred between Bahanaga level crossing and the station. I was waiting at the other side of the crossing gate when I saw Coromandel Express climb up the goods train and derail while two bogies of the other train veered off the track after being hit by the flying coaches of the former,” said Kamalakanta Behera, a local resident.
People and vehicles, including some auto rickshaws which were halted at both sides of the railway gate, were the first responders. They retrieved the injured passengers and rushed them to the nearby hospitals.
Some of the critically injured were taken to district headquarters hospitals at Balasore and Bhadrak while more than 100 were shifted to SCB Medical College and Hospital at Cuttack after their condition deteriorated.
By the time the Balasore district administration arranged for light and other facilities, the locals had shifted several injured patients to hospitals located on both the sides of the Howrah-Chennai railway line. An auto driver ferried at least 40 times to hospitals to shift injured passengers.
The state administration also swung into action and pressed 200 ambulances, 20 fire fighting teams, four teams of Odisha disaster rapid action force (ODRAF) and three teams of national disaster response force (NDRF) in the rescue and relief operations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took a review meeting on the accident at New Delhi, flew down to the crash site in the afternoon to take stock of the situation and inspect the ongoing relief efforts. He was briefed on the accident by railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and education minister Dharmendra Pradhan.
The PM interacted with local authorities, disaster relief personnel, and railway officials. “It is a painful incident. The government will leave no stone unturned for the treatment of those injured. Instructions have been issued to probe it from every angle. Those found guilty will be severely punished,” he assured.
UDHAYANIDHI TO STAY PUT IN ODISHA FOR FEW MORE DAYS
TN govt on Saturday night said no Tamil has been identified among the dead or injured in the accident till now. Chief Minister MK Stalin has directed the state team led by ministers Udhayanidhi Stalin and SS Sivasankar to stay in Odisha for a few more days. “Out of 288 dead passengers, only 100 bodies could be identified so far. No Tamil has been found dead,” a TN official camping in Odisha told this newspaper. The CM has also cancelled all programmes planned for the birth centenary celebrations of former CM M Karunanidhi. He announced `5 lakh solatium each to the families of the dead from TN.
HOW IT HAPPENED
At 3.20 pm on Friday, Coromandel Express bound for Chennai leaves Howrah; passes Khantapara at 6.52 pm. Gets clearance to travel at a speed of 130 km per hour
At 6.55 pm, it enters a loopline at Bahanaga Bazar Station at a speed of 128 km per hour, hits a stationary goods train. 21 of its coaches fly off on impact, many of them capsize
At the same time, 6.55 pm, Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express arrives on the Down line. Derailed Coromandel coaches hit rear portion of the Howrah-bound train
Two coaches of the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express derail on impact. A third coach got damaged but did not derail, a preliminary inspection report said
Locals begin rescue operations immediately. As many as 200 ambulances, 20 fire fighting teams, four Odisha disaster rapid action force teams and three NDRF teams join in