Confusion, disappointment and frustration reigned supreme at the mortuary of the Midnapore General Hospital here on Saturday as scores of grief-stricken relatives of the passengers of the Jnaneswari Express crowded here to trace their loved ones. Clutching identity proof like voter ID cards and pictures, the dejected relatives moved from one kiosk to another, set up by the police, the railways and the local administration, looking for the whereabouts of the victims of Friday's horrific accident.
With the number of bodies coming from the accident site increasing on Friday night, the hospital administration found it difficult to store them and was forced to keep around 20 bodies inside a garage on sheets of ice.
The air was heavy with the stench of death and the sighs and occasional wails of the relatives.
While some were fortunate to find their loved ones' names on the ‘injured' list, others like Chhapat Fakir from Nadia district, whose son has been killed, broke down on learning about the death of their relatives.
Still unfortunate were those who still had no clue about the whereabouts of their relatives and friends.
Gopal Roy from Ranaghat in Nadia district is one of them. Four of his relatives are among the victims and while he could trace three of them, Mr. Roy is clueless about his uncle, Bibhas Roy.
“Some hope was generated when I found a similar name in the ‘injured' list but it was dashed when I learnt that he is someone else,” Mr. Roy said.
Lives forever changed
That the tragedy has forever changed the lives of several children is evident from the cases of four-year-old Rukhsar Sheikh and fourteen-year-old Avik Banerjee.
While Rukhsar's mother, Salma Sheikh, died and her father Imtiyaj Sheikh's leg had to be amputated, Avik is yet to trace his father Amarjyoti Banerjee and had to undergo the ordeal of going through pictures of various deformed bodies to identify his father.
Baby reunited with parents
On a positive note, the two-year-old child, rescued from one of the coaches and admitted here as ‘unidentified,' was reunited with his parents on the day.
His parents were incidentally admitted to a different hospital.
Though initially the police administration only had lists bearing names of the dead and injured to reply to their queries, it later laid out pictures of the bodies and even flashed them on a giant screen so that relatives could easily identify their kin.
Relatives turn restive
The relatives waiting for a long time turned hostile at times as they alleged delay and misguidance on the part of the administration in handing over the bodies.
Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Verma said the police were trying to speed up the handing over process but took precautions to avoid “mistaken identities.”
“Since the process includes receiving of compensation, we are careful that bodies are handed over to the rightful owners to avoid later complications. Samples of the bodies are also kept for conducting DNA test later, if required,” Mr. Verma said.