Bangalore-Nanded Train mishap, 23 killed,40 People Escaped
The fire that broke out in the B-1 air-conditioned coach of the Bangalore-Nanded express early on Saturday morning left 23 dead, including two children. Though officials are trying to work with the passenger manifest, only a DNA test can establish their identity, said senior officials.
Around 9 a.m., the last of the bodies were being brought out, even as Andhra Pradesh Revenue Minister N. Raghuveera Reddy and Anantapur MP Anantha Venkata Rami Reddy were on the scene, with senior officials.
“It is so unfortunate that 23 lives were lost, but on the other hand, it was fortunate that 40 people escaped with their lives. The condition of five year-old Tanusree, with over 35 per cent burns is critical and she has been shifted to Bengaluru,” the Minister said.
Union ministers rush to the spot
Union Minister of State for Railways Kotla Jayasuryaprakasa Reddy, who rushed to the railway accident spot near Kothacheruvu in Anantapur district, feared that some more bodies were trapped inside the charred bogie of the Bangalore-Nanded express in addition to the 23 bodies extricated so far.
According to him, 64 passengers were traveling in the ill-fated coach and a majority of them jumped out by breaking the glass-pane of toilet cabin.
The Minister said the Railways announced an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh for the deceased passengers, Rs 1 lakh for seriously injured and Rs 50,000 for simple injuries.
Mr. Reddy expressed shock over the incident and offered his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and promised all help from the side of Railways.
Meanwhile, sources said that Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge is leaving for the site of the accident by helicopter from Gulbarga in Karnataka to supervise the relief operations.
Rescue and relief operations
Anantapur Range Deputy Inspector-General of Police B. Balakrishna, District Collector D.S. Lokesh Kumar, assisted by the district administration, personally monitored rescue and relief operations. Asked about the cause of the fire, the police officer said it would take a while for it to be established.
Senior Railway officials have also reached the spot from Bengaluru and launched their investigation, sifting through the debris.
By about 6.45 a.m. the express was sent on its onward journey, after officials isolated the ill-fated B 1 coach on to a loop line. The train came to a halt about six minutes away from Kothacheruvu station when a passenger pulled the chain earlier in the morning. The express was reattached to another locomotive from Dharmavaram and continuted towards Nanded.
Long after the train had left the spot, people milled around the B 1 coach near Kothacheruvu station, including survivors and locals. “There was not even a fire extinguisher in the compartment. I don’t know what to do”, said Natesh N, a survivor.
The 35 year-old said the accident was a result of ‘zero’ concern from Railway authorities and their absolute callousness to human life. The fire started near the berth number 22 and spread to 23 and 24, occupied by his family members, including his wife Vijita and daughter Tanusree.
“Eight of us were travelling from Bangalore to Mantraalayam. My Mother, Leela (63), and my wife’s sister and brother – Sudha (60) and Ramanandam (65) are missing”, said Mr. Natesh, a resident of Chromepet in Chennai.
“The curtains were the first to catch fire, burning faster than we could react to spreading the fire to the blankets etc”, he said even as he added that his five-year-old daughter Tanushree sustained facial injuries.
Tanushree is currently being transported to Bengaluru for better treatment as she suffered 30 per cent burns in all.
Saying that his wife’s younger brother Vivek broke the windows in one of the lavatories enabling them to escape, while the elders had to be left behind, he added that they could not have survived if not for the ingenuity of his brother, who navigated them to the toilet, for the smoke blocked out their vision almost completely.
In all, seven people were shifted to the Government hospital to Anantapur. Two of them – Tanuja (26) and Dalvin Kaur (30) left for Bengaluru from the Dharmavaram hospital after initial treatment. The other five included Mr. Natesh and his family members and another passenger Vijaya Ramamurthy,
After a couple of hours, Mr. Natesh, his wife and daughter, brother left for Bengaluru and only passenger being treated at Anantapur was Ms. Vijaya Ramamurthy.
The Railways have also set up helpline numbers to disseminate latest information to passengers and family members of the affected.
The Bangalore numbers are — 080 22354108, 080 22259271, 080 22156551 and 080 22156554.
Helpline numbers at SSP Nilayam station are — 085 552 80125 and 097 31666863