'Everything was over in a few minutes'

'Everything was over in a few minutes'

 “We saw death whisk past us,” was the common refrain among the survivors of the ill- fated Indore-Patna Express, with the scenario inside the bogies reflecting the horror they experienced.

The interiors of the less affected coaches also bore hallmarks of the tragedy, with bed sheets, blankets, pillows, half-eaten food, suitcases and bags lying scattered after passengers rushed out in panic when they were jolted out of sleep as the disaster struck.

Outside, a 17-year-old girl was seen desperately trying to locate her brother, both of whom were returning to Patna after a swimming competition in Bhopal, accompanied by their mother.

Traumatic passengers said that they were sleeping when the tragedy occurred. “Everything was finished within a few minutes...I was sleeping on the upper berth...suddenly there was a loud sound and I was thrown down...I could hear people shouting for help,” said Pradeep Kumar, who had boarded the train at Bhopal and was on way to Faizabad. Pradeep, who was in the S-2 coach, was among the lucky ones and escaped with injuries on his shoulder. “I was pulled out by some locals,” he said, searching frantically for his lost luggage. Rajesh Prasad of Patna, who too was in the same coach, also survived with minor injuries.

Although the railway officials remained tight-lipped about the cause of the accident, sources said that a rail fracture could have caused the derailment. “The train was travelling at a good speed when the accident happened,” said Pradeep.  
Jagram Singh, a resident of the nearby Malasa village, who was visiting a relative at Pukhrayan, said that he and other locals rushed to the spot and immediately started pulling out people.

There were stories of individual heroics too, with one rescue worker narrating how he managed to pull out five persons alive, one of them oblivious that her limb had got severed.

“I pulled out one old woman, who was yet to realise that she had lost one of her legs. One person had blood oozing out of his mouth. And the coach had bodies and blood splattered all across it,” Shakti Singh, a rapid reaction force member, said.

Rescue workers had no time to spare as they said that the mangled coaches contained a large number of bodies.

“Those alive have been already rescued. All that is left are bodies. We have just managed to clear half of the worst- affected coaches,” a volunteer said, pointing towards a bogie which looked like a metallic coil after the accident.

Over 600 kms away, scenes of tragedy also played out at Patna railway station, with relatives of the passengers making frantic attempts to contact their near and dear ones and pleading officials for information.

“I have been calling my father, who was returning from Ujjain, since morning. Calls are going through, but he is not picking up,” said Ranjan.

In another corner of the station, the brother of one of the passengers, Ranjan Kumar Singh, begged officials to share some information.

“We have not seen a tragedy of this scale ever in our lives. We are still trying to trace five members of our family,” Deepika Tripathi, a passenger, said.

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