Having escaped with minor injuries, passengers of the ill-fated Punjab Mail which derailed near Rohtak in Haryana in the early hours of Sunday consider themselves extremely fortunate to have survived to tell the tale.
“It was a nightmarish experience. And the feeling is yet to sink in that we have survived. Had the train caught fire following the derailment, there would have been many fatalities,” said Rakesh Kumar (37), a Bathinda resident, travelling in S-10 coach of the Mumbai-bound Ferozpur-Mumbai Punjab Mail that derailed on the Rohtak-New Delhi section around 4 a.m.
Mr. Kumar was on his way to Delhi along with his wife Manju (34), son Nikhil (14) and daughter Jasmine (16) when the mishap took place. “My daughter is under treatment at a hospital in Delhi for some skin disease and I often accompany her to the Capital. She had an appointment on Sunday and my wife and son also insisted on coming along. Minutes before the derailment my wife had got up to go the washroom and suddenly the train started shaking. Even before we could realise what was happening, our coach derailed and landed on its side. The lights went off and there was dust all around. It took us more than 30 minutes to find our way out of the coach. We lost our luggage as well, but who cares when life itself is at stake?,” said Mr. Kumar.
For a group of half-a-dozen labourers, who were on their way to Vrindavan in Mathura on the auspicious occasion of “Pooranmashi” , it was no less than a re-birth. “We had heard and read about accidents and derailments, but experienced it for the first time. It is as if we are out of the jaws of death,” said Subhash (40), a resident of Nehru Colony in Rohtak, who was travelling in a general coach along with his friends.
Anil (42), one of the friends of Subhash, said: “We pulled out several people from inside the derailed coaches even before the rescue teams and the police reached. Though it was pitch dark at the site, two policemen in the ladies coach were carrying torches which proved handy.”
A journey to their son's in-laws turned out to be a miserable experience for an elderly couple who along with their son were also injured in the mishap. “We had boarded the train at Kot Kapura for Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. Suddenly the coach started shaking around 4 a.m. and passengers on the upper and middle berth fell on the floor. We somehow pushed ourselves out of the coach and were later taken to a hospital in Rohtak. Around noon, an ambulance took us to the New Delhi railway station where the station master helped us board another train to Gwalior. We managed to reach Gwalior at 4 p.m. Had the train not met with an accident, we could have reached around 10 a.m.,” Harjinder Singh (58) told The Hindu over phone.
Prem Sagar (63), an Agra resident, was pained more by the “apathetic” attitude of the administration than the injuries he received in the accident. “The treatment meted out to the injured at Rohtak hospital was unacceptable. I had severe pain in the knees and shoulders. When I asked for medicine, the hospital officials told me that it was Sunday and the chemist shop was closed. They asked me buy the medicines from the market outside. They offered me Rs.500 as financial assistance which I turned down. We were then packed into ambulances in groups of 7-8 people and sent to our respective destinations.”