Rae Bareli/Lucknow, March 20:
At least 32 people were killed when the engine and three coaches of a passenger train derailed near Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh after the driver overshot a signal on Friday.
Northern Railway spokesman Neeraj Sharma said in New Delhi that nearly 50 people were warded in hospitals. Doctors in Lucknow said many of them were in critical condition. Sharma put the death toll at 32.
The horrific accident took place at Bachharwan railway station near Rae Bareli when the Dehradun-Varanasi Janata Express, proceeding to Varanasi, jumped the tracks shortly after 9 a.m.
The train was to halt at Bachharwan, a small station. But the driver didn’t stop. When he realized the folly and applied the emergency brakes, the engine and the coaches went off the tracks, officials said.
An official statement said the train hit a sand bump, leading to the derailment.
One of the three coaches which derailed was a sleeper class. The other two were general coaches. All were packed with commuters.
As the badly injured passengers screamed in pain, the first to reach the site were people from nearby villages.
But two of the coaches were so mangled that rescue work could not take place until officials arrived with gas cutters to cut through the steel to take out the dead and the still living.
When journalists too reached the place, furious locals raised slogans against the state and railway authorities, saying official rescuers took a long time to start pulling out the bleeding passengers.
Some bodies were found under the coaches, apparently thrown off the train due to the impact of the crash. Some bodies were dismembered.
Many passengers suffered serious injuries, primarily in the head. Others suffered concussions, broken limbs and deep wounds. Some escaped with cuts and bruises.
One doctor said at least a dozen of those admitted to hospitals in Lucknow were battling for life.
Some passengers were treated medically in Rae Bareli. The more serious cases were rushed to the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences in Lucknow.
“The death toll could go up,” an official told IANS, adding that 12 bodies remained unclaimed until late in the evening.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was visiting Lucknow, met some of the injured in hospital.
President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in whose Lok Sabha constituency the accident took place, mourned the loss of lives.
Northern Railway officials said that prima facie the train driver seemed to be at fault.
“The train was to stop at the Bachharwan station but it did not. When he realized this, the driver applied the emergency brakes, leading to the derailment,” one official said.
The railways ordered a probe into the accident.
The railway ministry announced a compensation of Rs.2 lakh to families of each of the dead, Rs.50,000 to the seriously injured and Rs.20,000 to those who suffered minor injuries.
The Uttar Pradesh government announced similar compensation.
The accident disrupted train services on the important New Delhi-Lucknow-Varanasi sector.
A special relief train was rushed from Lucknow. Officials said six doctors and 20 ambulances were also sent to the accident site.
Buses were also despatched to the place to ferry the stranded passengers.
As news of the accident reached Lucknow, around 100 beds were reserved in the city’s hospitals to cater to the injured, officials told IANS.
Twenty-two people were killed when a passenger train rammed into a stationary train in Sant Kabir Nagar district, also in Uttar Pradesh, on May 26, 2014. IANS