Sunday, December 3, 2000,
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40 die, 135 hurt in rail mishap near Rajpura
Fractured track blamed for tragedy
From Jangveer Singh and
Surinder Bhardwaj
Tribune News Service

JEEWANPURA (Fatehgarh Sahib), Dec 2 In the second major train tragedy in Punjab following the Khanna mishap two years back, 40 persons were killed and 135 injured, 20 of them seriously, when the 3005 (Up) Howrah Amritsar Express collided with coaches of a goods train which had fallen in its track after being derailed near this village situated between Fatehgarh Sahib and Rajpura this morning.

The tragedy occurred at 5.42 a.m., according to Divisional Railway Manager Vijay Kumar. He said the passenger train hit the capsized coaches two minutes after 11 coaches of the goods train had derailed. He said the goods train continued towards Ambala with four of its coaches after the derailment. Due to the short period between the derailment and the collision, the guard and driver of the goods train probably did not have time to set detonators on the track to sound the approaching passenger train.

Mr Vijay Kumar said the drivers and guards of both trains could talk to each other on the walkie-talkie but did not say if any warning had been given to the driver of the passenger train. The cause of the accident was yet to be ascertained and a full-fledged inquiry would be conducted by the Commissioner, Railway Safety, Mr G.P. Garg.

Train driver Jagdish Chander, when interviewed, said he had contacted the guard of the goods train to ask why only four coaches had been attached to the train but there was a stony silence from the other side. He said he had started applying brakes immediately due to which the speed of the train had come down somewhat before the collision. The driver, however, could not say much as the railway officials whisked him away and prevented the media from talking to him.

Constable Balwinder Singh, a local resident, who was the first to inform the nearby Nabipur police station of the incident, told TNS that he first heard the sound of the derailment at around 5.30 a.m. and the Howrah train collided with the capsized coaches 10 minutes later. He said the driver of the passenger train had applied the brakes before the collision.

The constable was promoted on the spot by DIG Sanjeev Gupta. Though the railway authorities are tight-lipped, senior police officials said they had been told that a fracture in the railway track was responsible for the mishap. Punjab Governor J.F.R. Jacob, who visited the site in the afternoon, said railway officials had briefed him about the cause of the accident but the Railway Board member present at the site would be the best person to explain it.

The engine of Howrah Express was buried under its own parcel van which had cut into half a general class coach. On both sides of the general class coaches, two more were suspended in air at a 45 degree angle amid coaches of the goods train.

The injured have been transported to hospitals in Fatehgarh Sahib, Rajpura, Patiala and Chandigarh. As many as 65 persons were admitted to Fatehgarh Sahib Civil Hospital, 21 to Government Rajindra Hospital at Patiala, 34 to APJ Hospital at Rajpura and 15, who had been declared to be critical, referred to the PGI at Chandigarh.

Twentynine persons died on the spot. Five died while being taken to Fatehgarh Sahib and while on way to Rajpura. Eight of the deceased were identified. They are Inder Singh, Assistant Guard of Howrah Express, Ram Parvesh of Focal Point, Ludhiana, Sunil Kumar of Patna, B.N. Kadian of Patna, Mohammad Ash of Patna, Sajjan Singh of Chhabal, Amritsar, Kulwant Singh, an Army man with belt number 4466323, and Ram Pal, a beldar.

Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal visited the site in the evening. He announced that the government would give Rs 1 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased. The railway authorities announced an immediate ex gratia of Rs 15,000 each for the next of kin of those killed, which will be part of the Rs 4 lakh relief the railways will give to each of the families of the deceased.

Capt Amarinder Singh, president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, has demanded a high-level inquiry into the cause of the accident. He said such accidents had become routine and the railway authorities should take immediate remedial measures.

He expressed sympathy with the bereaved families.

The Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala expressed shock over the death of 36 rail passengers killed in train accident between Howraha-Amritsar mail and a Ambala-bound goods train near Jeonpura Sarai Banjara in Punjab.

Mr Chautala expressed his heartfelt sympathies to the bereaved families and wished speedy recovery to the injured.
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