At least 29 passengers, including 11 women and five children, were killed and 25 others injured when several coaches of two trains, one heading to Mumbai and another to Varanasi, derailed over a railway bridge in Harda district and plunged into the swollen Machak river.
Over 250 passengers have been rescued, a railway official said. The Railway Ministry has ordered an inquiry into the twin train derailments and compensation for the families of the victims.
"Twenty nine bodies, including those of 13 men, 11 women and five children, have been recovered so far from the mishap site between Khirkiya and Harda, about 160 kms from Bhopal," Madhya Pradesh government spokesman Anupam Rajan told PTI, adding that the toll could further go up.
However, Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Bhopal, Alok Kumar said, "11 passengers of Janata Express and one from Kamayani Express were found dead. About rest, we are not sure whether they were villagers or some other persons."
Though the state government said that 21 coaches of the two trains derailed, the DRM said seven bogies of the Janata Express plus engine and 10 of Kamayani Express derailed.
According to Central Railway PRO Piyush Mathur, seven coaches of Kamayani Express, heading from Mumbai to Varanasi, and three bogies plus the engine of the Rajendra Nagar-Mumbai Janata Express derailed at 11 PM last night.
"Nearly 25 passengers suffered injuries," he said. Making a suo motu statement on the incident in Parliament, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said track washout due to a swollen Machak river led to the derailment of the two trains.
Commissioner Railway Safety (central zone) will conduct an inquiry into the accidents, Railway Spokesperson Anil Saxena said. He said though prime facie flash floods led to the derailment of the two trains, the real cause will be ascertained after submission of the inquiry report.
The official said just eight minutes before the accident, two trains had crossed that section and their drivers did not detect any problem. Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grief over the loss of lives in the twin train accidents and said authorities are doing everything possible on the ground.
Rescue operations at the spot have been intensified, Divisional Commercial Railway Manager (DCRM) Brajendra Kumar said. The accident relief train has reached the spot and several passengers have been brought to nearby Harda station.
The Railway Ministry has ordered an inquiry into the twin derailments and announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakhs to the next of the kin of the deceased, Rs 50,000 to grievously injured and Rs 25,000 to those who sustained minor injuries.
The Railway Minister said all efforts are underway to rescue the passengers and top officials have rushed to the site. In view of the twin train accidents, MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan cancelled his scheduled tour to Ujjain and rushed to the mishap site.
Chouhan, accompanied by Forest Minister Gaurishankar Shejwar, Chief Secretary Antony DeSa and Director General of Police Surendra Singh, left for the mishap site to review the situation, a Public Relations department official said.
The Chief Minister also announced an ex-gratia of Rs two lakhs each to the kin of the deceased passengers, Rs 50,000 to the seriously injured and Rs 10,000 to those who suffered minor injuries in the accident, he added.