Protests, arson after incident at crammed Dhamara Ghat station

In the worst tragedy of its kind, 28 people, including 14 women, were on Monday crushed to death by a speeding train at Dhamara Ghat station in Bihar’s Khagaria district. Ten men and four children were the other victims. Six injured people are being treated in hospital.

Chaos and tension prevailed in the area after the incident. Angry locals staged protests, delaying the rescue and relief efforts by several hours. Protesters set the Patna-bound superfast Rajyarani Express and another passenger train on fire, damaging 20 coaches and two engines. They also held station officials hostage, railway officials said.

The station is a crammed facility with a three-line track, having no platform. Around 7.45 a.m., a group of pilgrims returning from a nearby shrine was walking on the middle track. Two trains — one going from Samastipur to Madhepura and the other returning from Madhepura — were halted at the station. The Rajyarani Express had received the clearance to pass through the station. Running at a speed of nearly 80 km, it mowed down 28 people before coming to a halt, railway officials said.

Initially, officials said the death toll was 37. But after a body count, they corrected the figure to 28.

“There were passenger trains on either side. The Rajyarani Express was behind the group walking on the track. Normally, any train will sound the horn, but people had no room to escape. Two passenger trains were on either side. The station was crammed and there was water around, leaving practically no room to manoeuvre,” DIG (Railways) K.S. Anupam told The Hindu.

“Drivers Rajaram Paswan and Sushil Kumar Suman applied the emergency brakes and that’s why the train stopped. Otherwise that is not a stop for the train,” the DIG said.

The drivers were beaten up by an irate crowd. While they could not be reached on their phones for a while, officials could reach them later in the day.

“The terrain there is very difficult. The area is completely inaccessible. There is no road. The railway line is the only route,” a railway official said.

BJP youth wing activist Ashwini Kumar Singh told The Hindu, “We took people to the ambulance on a motorbike. The ambulance was nearly six km away.”