‘I pulled the chain; two others joined me in breaking the windows in the toilet’
This 31-year-old brave heart rescued many of his co-passengers from the inferno in the B1 coach of Bangalore–Nanded Express early on Saturday, but is still unable to locate his 60-year-old mother.
Umesh, an employee with Hotel Woodlands in Chennai, was travelling with eight family members, including a four-year old child, to Mantralaya. They were all on the trip to fulfil a vow that his mother wanted him to keep.
While his cousin, Natesh (36), wife Vijetha (33) and their four-year-old daughter Tanushree, as well as another cousin Vivek (27) escaped with injuries, Mr. Umesh’s mother Sudha (60), aunt Leela (62) and uncle Ramanandam (65), a physically challenged person, are among those listed missing.
Having searched among the injured in a hospital in Anantapur, Mr. Umesh came barefoot to the Victoria Hospital mortuary looking for his family members. Still nursing wounds on his foot and hands that he sustained while breaking open the toilet window on the train, he was emotional but not ready to give up hope.
Recalling the fatal fire in B1 coach, the fourth bogie from the engine, which claimed 26 lives, he said: “We were all asleep when at around 3.20 a.m. we heard people screaming that there was a fire. I pulled the chain and warned the others. Two others joined me in breaking open the windows in the two toilets on the other end of the bogie.”
What posed a hurdle for their escape was that the vestibule connecting the bogie with the others was closed.
“We had only two doors to escape and these doors did not open quickly. So we forced open the toilet windows even as smoke was engulfing the bogie. In the melee, while many escaped, my mother and other relatives could not.”
He said he had forced his uncle, who had booked their tickets, to travel along with them. “Now I do not know how I will answer his children.”