M A I N   N E W S

17 killed as trains collide in Gujarat
Anil Nair

Samlaya (Gujarat), April 21
At least 17 persons were killed and over 80 injured when the Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express train rammed into a stationary goods train here, about 30 km from Vadodara, in the wee hours today.

Seventeen bodies, including that of the driver Sita Ram and his assistant, have been recovered as rescue and relief operation with the help of the Army, paramilitary forces and Fire Brigade personnel continued.

Railway Minister Laloo Prasad, who rushed to the spot, said either signal failure or human error appeared to be the cause of the accident. He also ordered an inquiry into the mishap.

Inspector-General of Police Rakesh Asthana said five coaches, including a general compartment and an air-conditioned bogie, were affected. The worst affected were S6 and S7 coaches which were next to the engine.

Local people, who were the first to reach the site of the accident that occurred at 3.30 am, began rescuing trapped passengers and sending them to nearby hospitals before official help could reach. The injured were rushed to hospitals in Vadodara and nearby areas.

The engine and four coaches of the passenger train from Varanasi were mangled and rescuers climbed on the coaches with ladders and used gas cutters to rescue trapped passengers and extricate bodies. The tracks were uprooted.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who also visited the site and the hospitals, said “the government has acted very promptly and we have sent four of our ministers to the site to oversee the rescue and relief operations”.

The casualty was low as there were less number of passengers in the train, Mr Modi told PTI.

While Railway Superintendent of Police Noel Parmar said 17 bodies had been recovered, General Manager of Western Railway, M.Z. Ansari put the toll at 12.

The Railways announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh to next of kin of those killed in the accident, Rs 15,000 for seriously injured and Rs 5,000 for those with minor injuries.

The stranded passengers were brought to Vadodara by state transport corporation buses for their onward journey. Railway safety officials and railway police have begun an inquiry into the cause of the mishap.

Rail service on the Vadodara-Delhi route has been disrupted and several trains affected. Efforts were on to resume the traffic.

Ruling out sabotage in the collision between the Sabarmati Express and a goods train here, the Western Railway General Manager today said the accident was caused by the “mistake” of two railway employees.

“Accident was avoidable. Our staff has committed this mistake”, Western Railway General Manager M.Z. Ansari told reporters at the site.

Asked if there was any possibility of sabotage since a jack bolt was broken, he said the accident could not have taken place merely by this.

“The signal was also off beside the bolt. The signal maintainer and his helper came and then ran away. It means it is their mistake,” Mr Ansari said, adding the mechanical interlocking system for signalling was also disturbed.

“There would be no signal unless the line is clear. Here the signal was off. It means the system was disturbed. It seems the maintenance staff did not follow the correct procedure. After inspecting the site and position of the lever, we can say that it is due to their mistake,” the official said.



Helpline numbers

Varanasi (UP), April 21
Railway authorities have set up three helpline numbers at the junction here to enable the kin of the 68 passengers from the city travelling in the Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express which collided with a stationary goods train in Gujarat today, Railway sources said.

The helpline numbers — 0542-2504039, 0542-250, 5896 and 0542-2507617 will provide round-the-clock information to the relatives of the passengers of the ill-fated train, the sources said. — PTI



Survivors describe heart-rending scenes of accident

Ahmedabad, April 21
Several passengers of Sabarmati Express, which was involved in a collision with a goods train at Samlaya today, narrated the heart-rending scene of a twelve-year-old boy crying besides the body of his mother, who lay beheaded in the mangled remains of one of the coaches.

About 150 passengers, most of them candidates who had come to take Railway Recruitment Board examination here, arrived in two different trains at Kalupur railway station.

One of the passengers, Mohammed Akhtar, who was among the first to arrive at Ahmedabad by Dhanbad-Ahmedabad Holiday Express said, “I was travelling in S-9 coach (one of the badly damaged coach) and in the middle of my sleep I heard a loud bang and before we could understand anything we had fallen over each other”.

He said adding that somehow he had managed to climb out of his coach.

Amidst cries and wails of the passengers in the breaking light of the day, the most painful scene Akhtar saw was that of the boy crying near his mother’s body.

“The boy was sitting besides his mother whose head was missing’’, he said. “The boy had identified his mother by her clothes”, Akhtar said.

One Lal Mansingh, who was travelling from Varanasi in S-6 coach said the locals were the first to begin rescue efforts. “About 400-500 persons had come to help us. They brought ladders with them and used it to help the people climb out of those bogies which had climbed over each other due to the impact of the accident.”

According to many passengers “official help came three hours after the incident”. “Once the authorities came the rescue effort was prompt,” said another passenger Rakesh.

According to Ishwar Prasad, who was on his way from Varanasi to take the Railway Board exam at Ahmedabad along with his friends, there were about 300-400 probable candidates in the train for the exam slated for April 24.

One of the injured canditates, Rajesh Singh from Jaunpur travelling in the S-9 coach said: “I was rescued after the authorities cut open my coach. The doors had got jammed and they cut the coach open using gas-cutters.”

Similar complaints were also expressed by other passengers who said that STD owners at Samalaya were charging “exhorbitant rates” from the passengers who were trying to call up their relatives to inform about their condition.

“The STD owners at Samalaya were minting money by charging almost double for the calls that the passengers were making”, said Rajesh Prasad, one of the survivors of the incident.

When the trains arrived here at Kalupur station, anxious relatives of the survivors rushed to meet their loved ones. Some who had been waiting since early morning, making frequent rounds of the helpline desk and making frantic calls hugged their relatives and cried loudly.

Some BJP workers were also seen trying to help the passengers who had arrived at the station.

Meanwhile, in the morning the relatives of passengers travelling by the Sabarmati Express crowded the helpline desk trying to get information about their dear ones.

“The authorities did not disclose the information about the accident before 7.30 am, an hour after the scheduled arrival of Sabarmati Express”, said Mr Ashok Sharma who had come to receive his father-in-law.

Another anxious relative Alok Bhaduriya, whose two elder family members were travelling by the same train, expressed dissatisfaction in the manner in which the helpline desk was giving out information. — PTI


Chaos at Charbagh railway station

Lucknow, April 21
Chaos prevailed at Lucknow’s Charbagh railway station due to lack of information regarding passengers of the ill-fated Varanasi-Ahmedabad Sabarmati Express that collided with a stationary goods train between Vadodara and Godhra stations of the Western Railway early today.

The family members of passengers who boarded the train at Lucknow made frantic enquiries at the information counter of the station but authorities could do little due to lack of information.

However, so far three Uttar Pradesh passengers had been confirmed dead — Chandrika Prasad (Amethi), Samar Bahadur (Unnao) and Parul Ben Thakker. More than 20 passengers from the state were also reported to be injured in the mishap.

Sabarmati Express left Lucknow at 0030 hrs yesterday and 123 passengers boarded the S4, S5 and S6 coaches. Passengers also boarded S7 at Orai railway station.

Meanwhile, the Railways here have set-up two helplines — 0522-2234610 and 0522-2234620 — for disseminating information about the accident.

Assistant Commercial Manager G.K. Bansal admitted that the flow of information from the accident site had been slow but the authorities were trying to speed up the things.

He also informed the railways would issue free passess to the relatives of the passengers, if they wished to travel to the accident site. — UNI



President mourns deaths
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 21
The President, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam has condoled the loss of lives in the railway accident near Samaliya village in Gujarat.

In a letter to Railway Minister, Laloo Prasad Yadav, the President has asked him to convey his condolences to the next of kin of those who have lost their loved ones and offered prayers for the speedy recovery of the injured.




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