Despite being among the largest employers in the world, the Indian Railways is several decades behind global standards when it comes to safety. Relatives of victims and survivors of the Nellore train accident claim there weren’t adequate fire-fighting measures, and that the emergency exit was jammed.
Irked relatives of passengers say that if adequate safety measures were in place, the number of casualties would have been lower. A cousin of S. Jaswini, a software engineer who died in the accident, says that her cousin who was with her in the compartment tried to open the emergency exit but found it jammed. “It is made of iron and due to the heat it would have become even tighter,” he said.
Jaswini, of Vijayawada graduated in computer engineering and was employed at Tata Consultancy Services in Chennai. “She had come home for the weekend and was returning,” said her father S. Sridhar, a businessman.
Her cousin says she was an avid stamp collector and a fun-loving person. “My other cousin Y. Sampath managed to escape, but could not save her. Later the police showed us her belongings and we came to know that she had died,” said her cousin.
Y. Sampath, who is admitted at the Bollineni hospital, is suffering from suffocation. He could not open his eyes even hours after the accident. “I could not open the emergency exit and I could not find a door. Some people pushed me and I fell outside,” he said.
Another survivor, 24-year-old Dr. Anusha, is also recuperating in the same hospital. Mr. Veeriah, her father, said: “We were on our way to Chennai and from there to Bangalore. She was supposed to apply for her higher studies. She is a brave girl and had saved some children from drowning in our home town Machlipattinam some years ago,” he said.
According to what Anusha said to her father, she had heard a noise and then saw a spark. “She somehow managed to jump outside. I was sleeping in the B2 compartment and she called us. When we rushed there, we found her sitting on the tracks,” said Mr. Veeriah.
She wanted to save people but couldn’t as she had sustained injuries. “She said that many people could have been saved if there were fire extinguishers in the compartment,” added Mr. Veeriah.