130 dead, 200 injured as Indore-Patna Express derails near Kanpur

Tragedy at dawn jolts nation; Rescue and relief operations are underway. NDRF teams at spot. Suresh Prabhu visits Lalpur Railway Hospital

indore-patna-expKanpur: At least 130 people were killed and over 200 others injured on Sunday when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna express train derailed near Pukhrayan area in Kanpur Dehat district, with railways officials saying the number of casualties could rise.

The incident took place around 3 am near Pukhrayan. Of the four coaches, S1 and S2 telescoped into each other and most of the casualties were feared to have been in these two compartments. S3 and S4 coaches also suffered severe damage. Though an AC-III tier coach was affected the casualties were not heavy. As railway personnel, assisted by the Army, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the state police carried out search-and-rescue operations, the number of casualties kept on increasing by the hour.

Could it have been averted?  It seems the absence of Linke Holfmann Bush (LHB) coaches – the ones used in Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express trains – is one reason for the high death toll. According to an official, though the Railway Ministry made it clear three years back itself that LHB coaches are a must, the Railways has been reverting to coaches made at the Integral Coach Factory (ICF). LHB coaches, unlike ICF ones, do not climb over each other in the event of an accident as they have more in-built safety features that can absorb shock and the impact of derailment more effectively. As to why the Railways are still using ICF coaches, it is believed that LHB coaches would require redoing of tracks.

Over 200 injured people have been rushed to nearby hospitals in the area. All hospitals have been asked to be alert. More than 40 ambulances are pressed into service, the IG said, adding that over 250 police officials are helping carrying out rescue and relief operations.

indore-patna-exp2Railways Ministry spokesperson Anil Saxena said several people have been rushed to nearby hospitals with injuries, and the casualties may go up.

Accident relief train was rushed to the spot, he said. Northern Central Railways spokesperson Vijay Kumar said that doctors and senior railway officials have reached the spot. Rescue and relief operations were being carried out by district administration and railway officials.

The grim truth is that with the Railways running more trains every year, the chances of more tracks developing fractures cannot be ruled out. The need for track renewal is now imperative if the ministry has any hope of avoiding a similar mishap as that of the Indore-Patna Express train tragedy. Clearly, the frenzy to run more trains and accommodate more passengers has taken a toll.

Though the cause of the derailment was not known immediately, sources said the nature and timing shows that the accident was caused by a rail fracture. However, the exact reason would be known only after an inquiry.

indore-patna-exp3Buses are pressed into service to help passengers complete their journey, Kumar said, adding that the S2 coach was severely damaged. Four AC coaches have also been derailed.

Meanwhile, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered a probe into the train tragedy. Suresh Prabhu reached LLR hospital and met the injured passengers. Prabhu said, direct general health services from Delhi and RPF director general from Delhi have also been called to reach the spot. Earlier, Minister of State for railways Manoj Sinha met the injured and assured them of all help. He said Commissioner Railway Safety (CCRS) PK Acharya will be conducting investigation tand in two days, a preliminary report will come. Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan ralso eached the hospital.

“All rescue relief work on to deal with unfortunate accident. All medical and other help rushed. Enquiry ordered. Situation monitored closely,” Prabhu said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives in the derailment of the Patna-Indore Express.

indore-patna-exp4“Anguished beyond words on the loss of lives due to the derailing of the Patna-Indore express. My thoughts are with the bereaved families,” he said in a tweet.

The PM said that Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu is personally monitoring the situation.

“Prayers with those injured in the tragic train accident. I’ve spoken to @sureshpprabhu, who is personally monitoring the situation closely,” Modi said.

Helpline Numbers:

Indore- 07411072
Ujjain- 07342560906
Ratlam- 074121072
Orai-051621072
Jhansi- 05101072
Pokhraya- 05113270239

indore-patna-exp5

Probe ordered

Meanwhile, Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered a probe into the train tragedy. “All rescue relief work on to deal with unfortunate accident. All medical and other help rushed. Enquiry ordered. Situation monitored closely,” Prabhu said in a tweet.

The Union railway ministry on Sunday announced an ex-gratia compensationof Rs 3.5 lakh for the families of those killed after an Indore-Patna express train derailed early morning. A compensation of Rs 50,000 was announced for those injured.

Soon after, the office of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for those injured.

Survivors of the ill- fated Indore-Patna Express thanked the locals who were the first to reach the accident spot in pitch dark.

“We saw death whisk past us,” was the common refrain among the survivors of the ill- fated Indore-Patna Express, with the scenario inside the bogies reflecting the horror they experienced. The interiors of the less-affected coaches also bore hallmarks of the tragedy, with bed sheets, blankets, pillows, half-eaten food, suitcases and bags lying scattered after passengers rushed out in panic when they were jolted out of sleep as the disaster struck just a little after 0300 hrs.

Outside, a 17-year-old girl was seen desperately trying to locate her brother, both of whom were returning to Patna after a swimming competition in Bhopal, accompanied by their mother. In the midst of the devastation, there were stories of individual heroics too, with one rescue worker narrating how he managed to pull out five persons alive, one of them oblivious that her limb had got severed. “I pulled out one old day, who was yet to realise that she had lost one of her legs. One person had blood oozing out of his mouth. And the coach had bodies and blood splattered all across it,” Shakti Singh, a rapid reaction force member, said.

The survivors thanked the locals who were the first to reach the accident spot in pitch dark to find people in daze, still reeling under the sheer impact of the tragedy. Rescue workers had no time to spare as they said that the mangled coaches contained a large number of bodies. “Those alive have been already rescued. All that is left are bodies. We have just managed to clear half of the worst- affected coaches,” a volunteer said, pointing towards a bogie which looked like a metallic coil after the accident.

The army joined the rescue operations, deploying 90 personnel besides a 50-member medical team which included five doctors. Kanpur Station Commander of the army Brig. BM Sharma said: “We have plans to work through the night. We have put up lights. Our teams are already here. Though the railway cranes are working, we have got our armoured recovery vehicle here to speed up the operation.”

He said that the army is in touch with the civil administration and all other agencies, including the NDRF. “All are functioning together,” he said.

Over 115 passengers were killed and more than 200 injured, nearly half of them grievously, in the worst train accident in recent years when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed here in Kanpur rural area. Brig Anurag Chibber said the force personnel were using metal cutters to open up the mangled bogies of the train.

Over 600 kms away, scenes of tragedy also played out at Patna railway station, with relatives of the passengers making frantic attempts to contact their near and dear ones and pleading officials for information. “I have been calling my father, who was returning from Ujjain, since morning. Calls are going through, but he is not picking up,” said Ranjan.

In another corner of the station, the brother of one of the passengers, Ranjan Kumar Singh, begged officials to share some information. “We have not seen a tragedy of this scale ever in our lives. We are still trying to trace five members of our family,” Deepika Tripathi, a passenger, told reporters.

Another passenger said: “We had minor injuries, there was no chance of coming out of the mangled bogie. We somehow managed to escape through the toilet door. All members of my family are safe.”

Tracks take a pounding as Railways runs more trains

The grim truth is that with the Railways running more trains every year, the chances of more tracks developing fractures cannot be ruled out. The need for track renewal is now imperative if the ministry has any hope of avoiding a similar mishap as that of the Indore-Patna Express train tragedy. Clearly, the frenzy to run more trains and accommodate more passengers has taken a toll.

Railway Ministry officials believe that prima facie cause of the accident of the Indore-Patna Express near Kanpur on Sunday could be ‘track fracture’ or in simple words breaking of a track. The grim part is that with Railways running more trains every year, the chances of more tracks developing such fractures cannot be ruled out. The need for track renewal is now imperative, these officials pointed out.

This frenzy to run more trains is also taking a toll on the tracks. “The life of a track is evaluated by something called the Gross Million Tons which is the total weight- of train, passenger, freight- that has gone over the tracks. The maximum weight a track can manage in its entire lifetime is between 550 GMT—if it is 52kg standard rails- or 800 GMT if it is 60kg standard rails. Using a track beyond this limit is an open invitation to disaster,” said a senior Railway official.

Statistics available with the Railway Ministry show that over the last two years, it ran a whopping 70,000 special trains. Moreover, during this period it introduced 308 new trains, extended 99 trains, increased the frequency per week (fpw) of 188 trains and permanently added 1,610 coaches to various trains. The Railways ran a little over 2.5 lakh extra coach trips in the past two years, ministry data shows.

“All this adds berths to our system but also takes a heavy toll on tracks. The result could be track fractures and disasters like the one we are seeing in Kanpur. However, it is too early to say what caused the accident and only a full-level inquiry will tell us the truth,” said an official.

A White Paper on the Railways health released by the government in February 2015 had a worrying fact on the status of track renewals. The report stated that out of the Railway’s total track length of 1,14,907 kms, about 4,500 km of track need to be renewed annually. However, due to financial constraints, the progress in track renewals is constantly coming down over the last six years, the white paper said. Arrears of track renewal are accumulating which will result in disproportionately high maintenance effort. This will also result in reduced reliability of assets, the White Paper noted.

In a statement issued recently, the Railways said that 5,900 km of track renewal had been sanctioned, out of which 2,668 km is targeted for the year 2016-17 itself. Budget outlay in year 2016-17 has been enhanced from Rs 4,000 crore to Rs 7,500 crore to speed up the track renewal works in the country. Accordingly, physical targets have also been increased from 1,500 km to 2,668 km, the statement added.

“As per norms, track renewal works are to be completed within two to three years of sanction,” said an official.

It was in 2001-02 that a Special Railway Safety Fund (SRSF), with a corpus of Rs 17,000 crore was formed on the recommendation of the Railway Safety Review Committee. About 45 per cent of this fund was earmarked for track renewal.

In March this year, while answering a query on track renewal, Minister of State for Railways, Manoj Sinha told Parliament that works of Track Renewal and Upgradation and a host of other activities like bridge rehabilitation and improvement in trains would cost Rs 1,19,183 crore at current price level.

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