West Bengal train mishap claims 63 lives; Railways blame drivers

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - 00:45

Zeenews Bureau

Sainthia (WB): Sixty-three people were killed and more than ninety-two injured when
a speeding Sealdah-bound express train tore into the rear of another train at Sainithia station of Birbhum district, apparently overshooting a signal in the small hours
of the day.

The accident occurred at around 2:00 am when the New
Coochbehar-Sealdah Uttarbanga Express came on the same track
and rammed into the Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananchal Express which
was just pulling out of platform number four, after having
suffered a delay of four to five hours.

Three rear coaches, including one luggage van and two
unreserved general second class coaches of the Vananchal
Express, were heavily damaged in the accident in
Bolpur-Rampurhat section of the Howrah division, Eastern
Railway officials said.

Birbhum District Magistrate Soumitra Mohan said 63
passengers died and of the injured, the condition of 36 was
serious. The injured have been admitted to the Burdwan Medical
College and Hospital.

Driver M C Dey, a seasoned `A` category loco pilot with a
good safety record, and assistant driver N K Mandal of the
Uttarbanga Express were among the dead in the accident for
which Railways were not ruling out sabotage.

The guard of the Vananchal Express A Mukherjee also died
in the mishap which was so severe that one of the coaches
mounted the road overbridge across the tracks in the station,
191 km from Kolkata.

A part of another compartment of the Vananchal Express
split and fell on the road along the tracks after being thrown
over the bridge.

As gas cutters worked through the mangled compartments of
the Vananchal Express which was hit from behind by the
Uttarbanla Express, dismembered bodies and blood-spattered
limbs tumbled out.

Mamata expresses ‘doubt’

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said "we have doubts
about the cause of the accident, the second in West Bengal in
two months."

Banerjee announced a compensation of Rs five lakh and job
for one member for each family of the dead. The seriously
injured would receive Rs one lakh and those with minor
injuries Rs 25,000.

A team of five West Bengal ministers headed by Finance
Minister Asim Dasgupta, flew to the accident spot by
helicopter and demanded a full-fledged inquiry into the
disaster.

The state government announced compensation of Rs three
lakh to the next of kin of each of the deceased.

Local people took up a blood collection drive to meet the
scarcity of blood at the Suri and Sainthia hospitals which
were not equipped to handle such a large number of admissions.
Rescuers, drawn from the army, BSF, police and the
national disaster management force, carried out work on a
war-footing using heavy-duty gas cutters and deploying sniffer
dogs to locate bodies or survivors in mangled coaches.

Three relief trains, including medical vans, reached the
site from Rampurhat, Burdwan and Asansol.
The first relief train with a medical van reached the
site at 3:30 am and immediately started rescue operations, the
railways said.

Latest reports said lines were cleared for resumption of
normal train services in Bolpur-Rampurhat section.

Sabotage not ruled out

The Railways did not rule out the possibility of sabotage in the train collision involving Uttarbanga Express and the Vananchal Express here that claimed the lives of at least 63 passengers.

"Nothing can be ruled out. Ho sakta hai hamara equipment se chherchhar hui ho. Ye sab janch ke bad pata chalega (It may be possible that our equipment might have been tampered with. It will be known only after inquiry)," Eastern Railways General Manager VN Tripathy told a news agency.

To another question, he said that the Uttarbanga Express, which rammed into the rear of Vananchal Express, seemed to be running at a much higher speed than it was supposed to while entering the Sainthia station.

"What caused the accident is a mystery to us. The driver of the Uttarbanga Express was a very good driver. He had stopped the train properly at previous station. We are puzzled," the Eastern Railways general manager said.

Drivers` act unusual

Terming the action of drivers as
"unusual" in today`s rail accident at Sainthia in Birbhum
district, the Railways said the drivers neither applied
emergency brakes nor made any attempt to stop the train to
avert the collision.

"This is very unusual. There was something wrong with loco
pilots (of Uttarbanga Express)," Chairman Railway Board Vivek
Sahai told reporters here after visiting the accident site.

"The brakes were not applied at all not even the emergency
brakes though the train was running at a high speed. They
(driver and co-driver) did not even try to jump out and were
found occupying their seats," he said apparently indicating
something amiss in the accident.

He said the signal was red and it was verified by Member
(Electrical), Railway Board, during his spot visit to Sainthia
station.
However, Sahai said the main driver was an experienced
staff belonging to `A` category, a post held by only 15 to 20
per cent of all drivers in Indian railways.

Over 63 people were killed in early hours today when the
Sealdah bound Uttarbanga Express rammed Vananchal Express from
behind at Sainthia station.
The Commissioner Railway Safety, Eastern Zone, is probing
the accident.

Asked if the accident would have been avoided had there
been an anti-collision device (ACD), Sahai said the technology
is still being tested as the Railways was not sure about its
efficacy in sections with multiple tracks.
However, he said, "The railways are not abandoning the
idea of implementing the device even if they are costly.

"We have already sanctioned their installation in
Southern, South-Western and South Central Railway," he said.



First Published: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 - 00:45

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