Rescue teams came only after two hours, they say
Bithika Ray's eyes wore a vacant look as she stared at the twisted remains of her S3 coach. Only her lips quivered a bit as she murmured: “What will I tell my husband? How will I return home now?”
Ms. Ray (24) was travelling to Mumbai with her one-and-half-year-old daughter, her sister and brother-in-law to join her husband, who works as a jewellery artisan there. Following the tragedy on the track, she could not trace any of her companions.
As some survivors wailed on identifying the bodies of their kin and some others made frantic phone calls to anxious relatives back home amid all the medical attention within the premises of a temporary shelter, a stunned Ms. Ray underscored the extent of the tragedy that struck the passengers of the 2012 Jnaneswari Express.
Bodies were seen being carried away from the site on trucks of the Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force.
Some like the family of Shalini Jain had a miraculous escape. Ms. Jain was travelling with her sister, Alka Saraogi, and four children on the S6 coach but managed to escape unhurt.
The survivors, however, alleged that though the accident occurred at 1.30 a.m., rescue teams reached the spot only after almost two hours.
“It was pitch dark and we could hear the desperate cries and moans of the injured passengers with none to rescue them. The local residents extended their help initially before the police came in,” Mohan Seth, a passenger said.
The first accident-rescue train reached the spot at 3.30 a.m., according to railway officials.
Luggage and belongings of passengers lay strewn along the track. They ranged from suitcases to gunny bags and laptops to mangoes and rasgullas.
Rescue workers said the bodies trapped inside the mangled coaches have started decomposing and had to be extricated by cutting through the wreckage using acetylene gas-cutter instruments.
While three Air Force helicopters were seen making several rounds to evacuate the injured, ambulances of the National Disaster Management Authority and several private organisations ferried the injured to hospitals in Midnapore and Kharagpur.
Survivors with minor injuries were treated at the two temporary medical camps at the site.