Thursday dawned as just another busy day at Chennai Central Railway station. The Bangalore–Guwahati tri-weekly Express had chugged into platform 9 around 7.05 a.m., late by 75 minutes. The usual ‘chai-chai’ resonated in the air; some passengers got down to buy breakfast for their children, some to sip tea and some to just stretch. The train was supposed to leave in the next 30 minutes.
But in just a few minutes, two explosions rocked the station and the situation turned topsy-turvy. Unlike every day when the train is forgotten after passengers alight, on Thursday, all eyes were on the train.
Bhagal Singh, who was travelling in S-4, was sitting near the spot where the explosion occurred. “I was holding a RAC ticket for seat 63. All of a sudden, there was a blast and my legs were injured. I felt giddy,” he said, speaking to The Hindu.
On the platform, chaos reigned. Meanwhile, the Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) rushed to the spot and around 7.30 a.m., the 108 ambulances started arriving. “Many people were wounded and there was blood all over. I rescued a few people,” said railway porter K. Bala.
Barring the unreserved compartment, the rest were emptied. The platform near the explosion site was cordoned off to prevent loss of evidence. Anxious passengers and curious visitors tried to catch a glimpse of what was happening even as railway officials, bomb squad and law enforcement agencies inspected the locomotive.
Around 10.30 a.m., three coaches (S-3, S-4 and S-5) chugged out of the platform and within half an hour, another three were brought in. The passengers were allowed to board after their luggage was checked thoroughly. “There was some confusion here as many who had already boarded were made to step out,” said a railway official.
Amidst all the chaos, the railway guard was sitting quietly inside his compartment. “The train is ready to leave. It has already been delayed by over five hours,” said the guard in Tamil with a strong Telugu accent.
Around 12.10 p.m., railway officials spoke on the walkie-talkie announcing that the train would leave the station soon. Bhagal Singh was back near S-4. “It’s a new coach. I am not scared anymore,” he said before hopping in.
A long horn indicated that it was time for the locomotive to leave the station. Around 12.15 p.m., just five hours after the horrific incident, thanks to team work by Railway officials and the police, the Guwahati Express chugged out, leaving behind the dark memories and dried blood stains on platform number 9.