Railways employee Mohammed Yunus alerted officials at Penukonda amid chaos

“I woke up from sleep to a sudden jerk and screaming of fellow passengers around 3.10 .a.m. in my coach of Hampi Express. What I saw after alighting from the train was appalling. The coach next to the engine was in flames and people were running helter-skelter,” said Mohammed Yunus, one of the travellers in the ill-fated Bangalore-bound train, which rammed a goods train near the Penukonda station in Andhra Pradesh on Tuesday.

Calling into action his long experience with the Railways, Mr. Yunus called the Collector of Anantapur district and the Divisional Railway Managers, South Western Railway, Bangalore and South Central Railway, Guntakal. “Within 25 minutes, fire engines came to the accident site —Penukonda Railway Station — and doused the fire,” Mr. Yunus said.

‘Fortunate’

“On many occasions of mishaps, delay in launching rescue operations used to claim more lives than the impact of the mishap. Victims of this mishap were fortunate as the accident spot was easily identifiable and accessible. I also had the [phone] numbers of district authorities, which came in handy to launch the rescue operations,” Mr. Yunus said.

The first-class air-conditioned coach in which Mr. Yunus was travelling was the 6 from the engine. The first and third coaches from the engine took the brunt of the collision — a majority of the casualties were occupants of these coaches.

Though Mr. Yunus, as an engineer with the Railways, is closely associated with trains, the incident shocked him. “Though we got a fresh lease of life, we are deeply saddened by the casualties,” he said. It was difficult to pacify the passengers who were frightened, and the dreary darkness at the unlighted small Penukonda station amplified their woes, he said.

Cause of fire

Though the cause of the fire could be ascertained only after proper investigation, Mr. Yunus felt the sudden braking of the engine and its brush with the signal pole could have ignited the flames.

Mr. Yunus, along with others, was able to extricate at least 10 bodies before he left for Bangalore.