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Monday, May 13, 2002

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Patna-bound train derails, 12 killed

By Our Special Correspondent

Coaches of the Shramjeevi Express which derailed near Khetasarai in Jaunpur on Sunday. — Photo: Akhilesh Kumar

LUCKNOW May 12. Twelve persons were killed and over 70 injured, when 13 coaches of the Patna-bound New Delhi-Patna Shramjeevi Express train derailed near the Khetasarai station in Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh early this morning. The train had 24 coaches in all.

The cause of the derailment could not be established immediately but some fishplates were lying near the track and sabotage could not be ruled out. Railway officials arrived at the scene and began investigations.

Most of those killed were in a second-class general compartment which overturned.

The train was running between Khetasari and Mehrawan stations, nearly 20 km from the district town of Jaunpur, when the accident occurred around 3.45 a.m. It was moving slowly due to construction work at an old bridge on the track. The bridge collapsed after the derailment.

The injured were taken to the hospitals at Khetasarai, Shahganj and Jaunpur. The condition of more than 30 injured was stated to be critical.

Two relief trains were sent to the site. Helpline and enquiry counters have been set up at a number of stations including those in Patna, Lucknow and New Delhi.

Probe ordered

Our New Delhi Special Correspondent reports:

The Railway Ministry has ordered a statutory inquiry into the mishap.

The inquiry would consider whether it was due to any sabotage. The Railway Minister, Nitish Kumar, said that sabotage could not be ruled out. He was speaking to reporters at Patna, where he had gone for some engagement. He later left for the accident site.

A senior Railway official here said that all the circumstances at the site pointed to the possibility of sabotage. In particular, the fish plates were found lying in such a condition near the track which indicated that it was not a mere accident. In addition, a preliminary probe has found no problem with the track or the engine, he added.

A Northern Railway spokesperson said that because of the derailment, the routes of four major trains have been altered.

While Sealdah Express has been diverted to run via Zafrabad, Sultanpur, Faizabad and Lucknow, Doon Express has been diverted via Varnasi, Sultanpur and Lucknow, Ganga Sagar Satlur Express via Varanasi, Pratapgarh and Lucknow and Marudhar Express via Faizabad and Sultanpur.

Three other trains have been terminated at different stations: Berailly-Mughalsarai Passenger at Faizabad, Moradabad-Faizabad Express at Shahganj and 1 LK passenger at Jaunpur.

The Chief Public Relations Officer of Northern Railway, Davinder P.S.Sandhu, said the coaches which were unaffected were attached to a special train, which left the site at about 7.30 a.m, along with the stranded passengers for Patna.

PTI reports from Manikalan (Uttar Pradesh):

The Railway Board chairman, I.I.M.S. Rana, who inspected the site, said there were several indicators which firmly pointed to sabotage.

First, he said, the fishplates were removed from the tracks but the bolts that tighten the plates were not damaged.

Secondly, one of the tracks was found lying two metres away from the railway line, Mr. Rana said.

Discounting earlier reports about some defect in the rail track and the bridge over which the derailment took place, Mr. Rana said a light engine had passed safely over the same bridge just before the Shramjeevi Express.

In fact, the base of the bridge was found intact, he added.

The Board chairman said the driver of the train heard a ``loud bang'' when the train was passing over the bridge.

Then the entire train was shaking following which the driver applied the brake.

Anxious friends and relatives of the passengers thronged the Information Centre at the New Delhi Railway Station in the hope of getting details about the accident.

Telephones kept ringing at the centre from people wanting to know about those who were aboard the train. But all they got was polite assurances that any information received here would be passed on to them.

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