Two express trains heading in opposite directions derailed on a rail bridge in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday night after flash floods washed away a portion of the tracks
Harda: At least 34 were killed and 250 injured in Madhya Pradesh after two trains derailed while crossing a railway bridge submerged by flash floods, sending 17 bogies and one engine tumbling into the rain-swollen Machak river.
The incidents took place minutes apart, at around 11.30 pm on Tuesday night Kamayani Express (Mumbai-Varanasi) was hit first, followed shortly by the Janta Express (Patna-Mumbai) heading in the opposite direction. Pic/AFP
The incidents took place minutes apart, at around 11.30 pm on Tuesday night Kamayani Express (Mumbai-Varanasi) was hit first, followed shortly by the Janta Express (Patna-Mumbai) heading in the opposite direction.
The accident occurred between Khirkiya and Bhirangi stations on the Khandwa-Itarsi section (160 km from Bhopal), after the 500-metre rail tracks over a small bridge were submerged in a sudden flash flood caused by heavy rains in the area.
Locals and rescue workers inspect the site of the mishap for survivors and dead bodies. 17 bogies and one engine derailed. Pics/PTI
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said the flash flood had caused the Machak River to overflow and wash out a section of the rail tracks, leading to the derailment of the two trains. “The prima facie cause is stated to be a flash flood due to heavy rains,” he told the Rajya Sabha.
Eyewitness Jhhabbu, who helped many passengers, told mid-day, “Bodies were washed downriver and found as far as 5 km from the accident site. There were many children as well.” A few bogies were seen fallen on one side and while others were leaning in the mud at the site of the mishap.
Tracks were broken, uprooted and scattered, and a detached train wheel was visible in one section. The Railway Ministry has ordered an inquiry into the twin derailment and announced an enhanced ex-gratia of R2 lakh each to the next of kin of the deceased.
Passengers said they were jolted awake by the falling bogies, which quickly filled with muddy water. “We felt the jerk instantly. When we opened the door and checked, there was water everywhere.
In no time, the train tilted, and we all got trapped and were stuck for three hours,” a survivor said. “The water level on the track was almost waist-high,” added another survivor.
Saris to the rescue
51-year-old Allahabad native Sayed Imran Ali fractured his head, injured his legs and lost visa documents he was carrying on the train. “The train was chugging in high speed and heavy rains had lashed the area.
Suddenly the train stopped with a loud thud and water flooded the coach leaving very little time for passengers to make an exit. The womenfolk used their saris to form a rescue rope that was tied to a Kamayani Express coach on one end, while the other was tied to a stationary train on the other side. Their idea saved many lives,” he recalled.
On the move
The passengers were first moved to Harda railway station, which is about 32 km from the accident site. The second train that derailed, Janta Express, was eventually sent to Mumbai (final destination) via Nagpur yesterday.
“We used the 15 coaches that hadn’t been damaged, added another 5, and sent the passengers to Mumbai via Nagpur, from where the train left around 4.50 pm yesterday.
The train is expected to arrive at Mumbai around 5 am on Thursday morning,” said a senior railway official from Nagpur. Similar arrangements were made for the Varanasi-bound Kamayani Express, which left for its destination around 6 pm.
‘No defect in bridge’
Railway Board chairman, A K Mittal said that the railways had undertaken pre-monsoon precautions in vulnerable sections, as is the norm every year, but the derailment spot was not among those identified sections.
Blaming the sudden surge of water as a possible cause of the derailment, Mittal added, “The flash flood caused extensive damage to the track, which resulted in the derailment.
The track was otherwise alright and two trains crossed the track just eight minutes before the incident.” Ruling out any defect in the bridge, Mital said there was regular patrolling on the section and no train is allowed to cross a defective bridge.
No monsoon patrolling at spot
The section where two trains derailed due to the sudden flow of water on the tracks has no history of being vulnerable to accidents in the rainy season and hence the Railway officials had not anticipated such a tragedy at that spot near in Madhya Pradesh.
“Regular monsoon patrolling was not being done between Khirki and Bhirangi section as the officials did not find it vulnerable to accidents in rainy season going by the past history,” a top Railway officer said.
Help is at hand
Central Railway (CR) has set up four helpline numbers.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus: 022-22694040
Lokmanya Tilak Terminus: 022-25280005
- Inputs by Vedika Chaubey