Lives of 800 passengers saved as railway engineering staff stop train at Srivaikuntam railway station

Accident averted as formation under track had been washed away for several metres due to gushing flow of water

December 18, 2023 06:44 pm | Updated 07:12 pm IST - Madurai

Railway track displaced near Srivaikuntam after gushing flood water led to erosion of earth formation and ballast under the railway. track..

Railway track displaced near Srivaikuntam after gushing flood water led to erosion of earth formation and ballast under the railway. track..

Timely advice from a railway engineering staff to stop the Chennai-bound Tiruchendur Express at Srivaikuntam railway station on Sunday night averted a possible untoward incident as track formation, including ballast under the railway track, was washed away by gushing water from a breached irrigation tank.

The enormity of the cloud-burst could be gauged by the fact that the mud and ballast formation for more than 12 km was later found to have been washed away due to erosion and the track holding the concrete sleepers were dangling dangerously even as strong current of water was found under it on Monday morning.

The train, which left Tiruchendur railway station around 8.30 p.m., was stopped at Srivaikuntam railway station with some 800 passengers on board. After spending their night in the train and at the station amid heavy downpour, some 300 passengers were taken to a a relief centre at a nearby school.

Struggle to reach station

“Our men have been struggling to find a way to reach the railway station to provide food to the stranded passengers and railway staff at the station,” said a senior railway official.

Attempts to send food packets from Tirunelveli failed as truck drivers initially refused to take risk. “Two trucks that started towards Srivaikuntam could not reach the spot as water-logging is on all four sides of the station,” the official said.

Another official said the help of Air Force helicopter has been sought for dropping food packets at the railway station.

A senior official said the extent of damage to the railway track could not be immediately assessed due to the flood situation. A few overhead electric poles along the electrified route were also damaged.

Following the fall of the OHE poles, power supply was cut off on the entire Tirunelveli-Tiruchendur railway section as a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, the railway official said any kind of track restoration work could start only after the water receded considerably. “Otherwise, there is no point in dumping the ballast in the gushing water,” he added.

Rail movement would remain suspended till the work was completed for which at least five days would be required, an official said.

Extremely heavy rainfall

Extremely heavy rainfall was reported along the Srivaikuntam -Tiruchendur railway section, which caused the heavy erosion of soil under the railway track. While Srivaikuntam registered (618 mm) of rainfall till 6 a.m. on Monday, an unprecedented rainfall of 932 mm was reported in Kayalpattinam, 679 mm in Tiruchendur and 326 mm in nearby Kulasekarapattinam.

Similarly, formation under the railway track near Gangaikondan was also washed away after water from a breached tank passed through the railway line.

Tracks under water

Meanwhile, all five platforms in Tirunelveli railway junction remained flooded since midnight of Sunday. No rail movement had been allowed after 2.30 a.m. Water from Nainarkulam tank in Tirunelveli town was draining into the railway junction after flowing through a sprawling area of paddy fields.

“The inflow of water into the junction is higher and the flow of water from the station is low. Hence, water-logging is continuing,” he added.

Railway yard and pitlines were also inundated leading to cancellation of many trains. Similar to Tirunelveli railway junction, the railway track in Thoothukudi railway station was also under some three-foot deep water.

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