39 killed, over 50 injured as Hirakhand Express derails

Railway Minister visits accident site in A.P., orders probe

Updated - January 22, 2017 11:41 pm IST

Published - January 22, 2017 11:40 pm IST - KUNERU (VIZIANAGARAM):

DISASTER STRIKES AGAIN:  The derailed coaches of the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express near the Kuneru station  in Andhra Pradesh.

DISASTER STRIKES AGAIN: The derailed coaches of the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express near the Kuneru station in Andhra Pradesh.

As many as 39 passengers lost their lives and over 50 were injured when the engine and nine coaches of the Hirakhand Express, bound for Bhubaneswar from Jagdalpur, derailed near the Kuneru railway station in Vizianagaram district late on Saturday night. The victims included 15 women and an infant.

The injured passengers were rushed to hospitals, with 22 persons admitted to the Parvatipuram Government Hospital and 32 treated at the Rayagada District Hospital. Later, nine severely injured passengers were referred to Visakhapatnam, Chief PRO of East Coast Railway J.P. Mishra said.

Five NDRF teams were rushed to the accident site to assist the RPF, CRPF and Odisha Rapid Disaster Action Force teams in rescue and relief operations. The Rayagada District Collector and the CPRF Commandant supervised the relief efforts. The Director-General, NDRF was monitoring the situation, officials said.

Two AC coaches, four sleeper coaches, two general compartments and the guard-cum-passenger coach, besides the engine, were affected, with four coaches overturning.

Rail fracture

The derailment was caused by a suspected rail fracture at a few places near the railway cabin ahead of the Kuneru station.

The S-8 and S-9 coaches of the train were the worst affected. Coach S-7 rammed into S-8, badly damaging one end of the coach, while S-9 toppled onto its side as did another coach. A stationary goods train on an adjacent line near the cabin prevented another coach from toppling over. The impact of the derailment was severe enough to detach the rails from the concrete sleepers, which lying were broken.

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu Prabhu, accompanied by Railway Board chairman A.K. Mittal and other senior officials, visited the accident site on Sunday and later called on injured passengers at the Rayagada District Hospital. Promising stringent action against those responsible for the derailment, Mr. Prabhu announced an ex gratia of ₹2 lakh to the next of kin of the 39 victims, ₹50,000 for the severely injured and ₹25,000 to those with simple injuries.

The Odisha government has announced an ex-gratia of ₹5 lakh for the next of kin while Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu also announced ₹5 lakh ex-gratia for victims from Andhra Pradesh. Thirty-one of the victims are from Odisha, eight are from Andhra Pradesh.

The bodies of the victims have been sent to Parvathipuram and Rayagada for post-mortem and will be handed over to kin on Monday. “We have informed most of the family members. Around 13 bodies are yet to be identified ,” a railway official said.

Divisional Railway Manager Chandralekha Mukherjee, reached the spot in a special relief train around 2 a.m. on Sunday. “This is the first time in my two decades of experience to see such badly broken rails. Though it appears to be rail fracture, the possibility of sabotage cannot be ruled out and we shall have an independent and impartial inquiry,” Ms Mukherjee told The Hindu at the accident site.

Train services were affected on Rayagada and Vijayanagaram route, with at least five trains cancelled and around eight others diverted following the derailment last night.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister to take stock of the situation. Naidu briefed the Home Minister on the steps taken for rescue and relief of the accident victims.

Recollecting the accident, a passenger, Durga Prasad Panda, said most of them were in deep slumber when the incident occurred. “We were thrown off our berths and many were crushed under the berths,” he said. While Mr Panda was admitted to a hospital in Visakhapatnam, he has no information about his wife who was travelling with him.

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