Motorman G Chandra, who was operating a Virar-bound slow local when the blast occurred after the train left Mahim recallsl the horrific blast
“I was manoeuvring a Virar slow (train) and had just left Mahim, when I heard a loud blast. Initially, I thought that snapping of an overhead cable was the reason for the loud bang,” said motorman G Chandra.
The blast occurred at 6.24 pm, after the train left Mahim station. Chandra immediately halted the train and ran back to inspect the problem. “There were bodies all over. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was the first class compartment towards the Virar-end of a 9-car train,” he added.
Chandra claimed while bodies lay on tracks, the injured, who limped out of the compartment, were drenched in their own blood. The control room was informed about the blast over a walkie-talkie. However, by then, panic and chaos had gripped other stations where the remaining six blasts occurred.
“Rumors started doing the rounds that 12 blasts had taken place. Finally, after 30 minutes or so, we learnt that seven blasts had occurred. Chaos and panic prevailed for the next two hours,” said a railway official, part of the search and rescue operation.
Soon after the blasts, the railways mobilised over 500 staffers — many of whom were done with their day’s shift. They, along with the locals, rushed the injured to the nearest hospitals. “I was done for the day, but soon reported back at Santacruz station. We immediately mobilised other staffers.
We also recovered cash, gold and other valuables, collectively worth over R8 lakh and kept it safe on the station premises,” said B Varghese, former station superintendent of Santacruz, where a blast occurred around 6.30 pm. “Even today, I tremble at the sight of photographs or visuals of the blast published in newspapers or aired on TV,” he said.
One at a time
Soon, all services were suspended for execution of search and rescue operations. Later, the first service was operated around 10.30 pm — between Churchgate and Mahalaxmi. Gradually, it was extended till Dadar. Simultaneously, services resumed on the Virar-Bhayander route too.
Officials said it had become difficult to operate till Borivli, as the damage near Mira Road was extensive. More trains were pressed into action after 12.30 am once the tracks were cleared. But services at Mira Road attained normalcy at 5.30 am, after the damaged rakes were cleared off the tracks. Monetary assistance
“In all, Rs 22 crore was doled out to the kin of the deceased, and injured. We paid Rs 4 crore hospital bills,” said a senior railway official, adding, “Looking at the number of victims flooding the hospitals and their bloodstained clothes, we decided to get new clothes, and food for them and their families.”
Another official said a few of them approached wholesalers at Kalbadevi around 2 am and purchased 500 pairs of kurta-pyjama. They also bought biscuits and bottled water, and SIM cards so that injured could contact and inform their families about their whereabouts.
Recollecting an incident, a railway official said a huge chunk of metal — weighing about 12 kg — was found on the terrace of a three-storey building near Mahim station. It was discovered by the security team scanning the area before the arrival of late former president A P J Abdul Kalam at the blast site.
The chunk turned out to be a piece of the compartment in which the blast had occurred. Another officer spoke about a specific phone call received on the helpline. He claimed that by mistake the controller entered the timing of the blast two minutes before the actual explosion occurred.
Later, an inquiry was initiated into the matter. However, it was called off after it was discovered that the call was made after the blast and that the timing of the call was entered incorrectly in the logbook.