Four people were killed and 22 seriously injured when eight coaches of the New Delhi-Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express derailed in the early hours of Wednesday between Chapra and Dighwara stations in Bihar.
The injured were rushed to the Chapra Sadar Hospital, while those critical were shifted to Patna Medical College and Hospital. The toll would have gone up if the train was moving at a higher speed. The derailment took place barely seven km from Chapra.
“The train left Chapra station around 2:15 am. By the time it crossed Vishnupura, at least seven coaches from B-1 to B-7, besides the pantry car, turned topsy-turvy,” Shivam Singh, a staff of the pantry car, told Deccan Herald.
“I was about to sleep when I felt the train tremble. The speed was around 40-50 km/hr. Within seconds, I heard a loud sound at 2:20 am. One had to see it to believe it.
There was complete chaos as one bogie after another tumbled over. Passengers who were asleep after early dinner fell over each other,” he said.
Blankets, bedsheets and towels with blood stains lay strewn all over the accident site at Vishnupura village, where the 95-member National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team worked tirelessly to rescue those trapped. The NDRF team led by ASI Devendra Singh extricated the bodies, while others helped rush the injured to the hospital.
This is the second major rail accident after the NDA government was voted to power. On May 26, several people were killed when the Gorakhdam Express rammed into a stationary goods train in Sant Kabir Nagar district, Uttar Pradesh.
Amid the flurry of visits by Union Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda, his deputy Manoj Sinha, Chapra BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy and other officials, confusion prevailed whether it was a clear case of derailment or the result of sabotage by Maoists who had given a 48-hour bandh call from the midnight of June 24.
The timing and location, Vishnupura village in Maoist-hit Saran, points the finger towards the ultras but a DIG-rank police officer present at the spot told Deccan Herald, “Had it been the handiwork of Maoists, we would have recovered some sort of explosives, wires, gunpowder or even a press release by Maoists claiming responsibility for the derailment.”
However, General Manager of East Central Railway (ECR) Madhuresh Kumar said, “The possibility of Maoist hand cannot be ruled out. Only a proper investigation will unravel the truth.”
Since it may take at least two days to restore normalcy, the ECR has diverted all trains passing through the section to Raxaul-Sitamarhi-Darbhanga line.
Meanwhile, the railway minister has announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 1 lakh for critically wounded and Rs 20,000 for those who suffered minor injuries.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the deceased from the PM’s Relief Fund and Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured.
This is the Modi government’s second challenge in terms of train accidents since it came to power. On the day of Modi’s swearing in, the challenge of the Gorakhdam Express tragedy presented itself.
The Cabinet discussed the tragedy and expressed concern amid suggestions that this could be a case of sabotage.