A rolling stone may or may not gather any moss, but a rolling boulder created a major mess on Central Railway (CR) on Thursday, leaving one person dead and 15 others injured. The boulder, about 1.5 metres in circumference, which had fallen on the tracks near Kasara, was hit by a local train that derailed. The Vidarbha Express then collided with some of the derailed bogies, leading to the casualties. Subsequently, several trains were cancelled, diverted or delayed on the Kalyan-Kasara belt.
“We will soon be forming new guidelines on safe running of trains. Railway minister Mukul Roy had also held a meeting on this issue soon after the Hampi Express mishap at Penukonda,” said KH Muniyappa, minister of state for railways.
Right from the minister to Chairman of Railway Board (CRB) Vinay Mittal and General Manager of CR Subodh Jain, everyone claimed that the incident was the outcome of a natural disaster and not an instance of human error or technical failure.
However, some highly placed sources in railways maintained that nature wasn’t the only thing to blame for this accident on the Kasara-Umbermali section. “There is a shortcoming in the maintenance of the stretch. Knowing that this is the rainy season, there was a need for employees to ensure that there was no loose soil or boulders,” said a senior railway official on condition of anonymity.
According to witnesses at the site, the boulder gave way and collapsed on the tracks on which the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) bound train that left Kasara at 9.16 pm was travelling. This train bumped against the boulder around 9.30 pm.
“As soon as the train derailed, the lights went out, and people started streaming out — including Shakeela Kureshi (65), who was later killed during the collision –, all panicked,” said Ashok Wagul, a gangman who was present on the train.
According to railway officials, soon motorman R Roy of the local train saw the incoming Vidarbha Express on the opposite track. As per the rules, he lit firecrackers to signal the possible danger. But by then it was too late for A Khan, the driver of the express train, to make any alterations and the two trains collided.
The impact was such that 11 out of the 12 coaches of the local derailed, and its front end was completely smashed. Two bogies of the Vidarbha Express — S9 and S10 — climbed one over the other, while the 120-tonne engine got detached and then went off the rails.
By 9.50 pm, locals had come to the rescue of the victims, though they were literally fumbling in the dark.
“It was pitch black for at least an hour after the collision. We stumbled upon those who had fallen off the trains and were finding it difficult to carry them, as there were inclines on both sides. The intermittent rain added to our woes,” said R Ghanghav, a witness.
Initially, rescue and repair work was carried out using torches that railway officials and rail police had brought along. By the first light of the morning, CR authorities had managed to separate the undamaged coaches of the local and express trains. Around 7 am yesterday, authorities brought in a 140-tonne crane to lift and rerail the mangled bogies and the humongous 120-tonne engine. Traffic towards Kasara side had opened up around 8.20 pm. Movement on the CST side is likely to be restored by today morning.
“By Saturday morning we expect to complete a majority of the work,” added Vinay Mittal. Due to this accident, suburban services to Kasara will remain suspended till 1.30 am on July 21, even as trains will run till Asangaon. At least six long-distance trains were cancelled, and several others were diverted via Pune, Vasai and Kuruduwadi and short terminated.
>> 2009-10: There were 15 accidents on CR that resulted in the death of 2 people, while 18 others were seriously injured and 27 received minor injures.
>> 2010-11: Five accidents were reported in which 5 people were killed and 3 were seriously injured.