As families identify bodies, bring them home and perform last rites, the horror of Monday’s tragedy in which a train compartment was gutted, remains unabated

The flames that engulfed coach S11 of the Tamil Nadu Express on Monday, have taken nine lives from the southern districts of the State, but the identity of one is yet to be established.

The victims include three children and two women. Six of them were from Tirunelveli district, two from Madurai and one from Tuticorin.

Special Officer of Primary Agricultural Cooperative Society G. Jeganathan (51), who had gone to Delhi to attend a training programme along with sub-registrar, Shencottai, M. Hussain of Puliyangudi, was returning to Chennai when the accident occurred.

The body was identified by his brother and brought to Sankarankovil by road at 5.50 p.m. on Tuesday. After government officials, including Sankarankovil tahsildar K. Damodharan laid wreaths on the coffin, last rites were performed. As Mr. Hussain woke up early in the morning to start his Ramadan fast, he escaped with burns.

The death of five persons of a family from Muthumalaipuram near Alangulam was confirmed on Tuesday. The bodies of Ponmani, her children Rosie and Jasmine, younger brother Thavamani and mother-in-law Elizabeth, were identified by Ponmani’s brother Maria Selvam and her husband David Raj, a jawan.

However, there was confusion over the identity of Elizabeth, as a person from Andhra Pradesh also claimed that it was his aunt’s body. The other bodies were handed over to David and Selvam, while the one believed by the family to be Elizabeth’s, is being held back until a DNA test is conducted to establish the identity.

“Since the bodies are expected to reach David’s native place, Vaagaikulam around 2 a.m., the burial will be done on Wednesday,” said a relative of the victims.

“The body is burnt beyond recognition, so we couldn’t indentify it properly. The railway authorities have taken the body for DNA tests. We hope to hear from them in a few days,” Selvam told The Hindu on phone en-route to Tirunelveli.

Selvam’s brother-in-law David Raj (Ponmani’s husband), recognised his mother Elizabeth from the burnt remains of the sari she was wearing at the time of her departure from Jhansi. But the identification was not convincing enough for the authorities, as the Andhra Pradesh claimant also gave details that appeared to substantiate his claim that the woman was his kin.

Venkatesh Babu (33), an IT professional in Delhi, and his son V. Archith (3) were the two victims from Madurai. The bodies were identified on Tuesday night. According to a close relative, the deceased was on his way to drop his wife and children in Chennai when tragedy struck. The bodies are likely to be brought to Madurai on Wednesday. Venkatesh Babu’s wife, Veena, and their one-year-old son Kaushik, survived the fire. Veena was on her way to Chennai en route to Madurai, and was planning to take her GMAT exam online from Madurai on August 5. Her condition is still critical, her brother Vikram said.

V.S. Mohamed Mohideen alias Vilakku Mohideen (40), a business man dealing with gems, was on his journey to Kayalpatnam in Tuticorin district, when he became one of the victims of the fire, He had boarded the train at Vijayawada to reach Kayalpattinam through Chennai. His body was identified by his family by a ring he wore on his finger and by his greyish-blue eyes. The last rites were performed in Nellore on Tuesday. Mohamed Mohideen, who is survived by his wife Marliyya (37), son Kader Sahib (17) and daughter Ahmed Arshada (11), has been residing in Yelur in Vijayawada for business reasons for the last 12 years. He frequently visited his family in Kayalpattinam.

(With inputs from P. Sudhakar in Tirunelveli, J. Praveen in Tuticorin, S. Annamalai in Madurai and Petlee Peter in Chennai).