12:18 pm - Thursday November 5, 2015

LIVE: 31 dead in train derailments in MP, more than 200 rescued; death toll may rise, probe ordered

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At least 31 people were killed and more than 70 injured when two trains derailed within minutes of each other while crossing a small bridge in Madhya Pradesh shortly before midnight on Tuesday.

The Kamayani Express, headed for Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh from Mumbai, derailed near Harda town, 160 km south of Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal, shortly before midnight.

The Janata Express, en route to Mumbai from Patna, too derailed at the same spot minutes later.

Among the dead were 11 members of a family from Umrao village in Narsinghpur district of Madhya Pradesh. Jernail Singh, the head of the family, told Hindustan Times at the accident site that 14 members of the family were travelling to the pilgrimage town of Shirdi.

Officials engaged in the rescue operations said they feared the death toll could rise. Survivors said some persons could have been washed away by the swollen waters of the Kalimachak river.

More than 200 people were rescued from the site and sent to the nearby Itarsi railway station.

The accident occurred at Kudwa, 18 km from the district headquarters Harda, located between Bhirangi and Khirakia railway stations. Traffic on both up and down lines came to a halt after the accident.

Harda district public relations officer Vitthal Maheshwari said 31 people were killed, including 10 women and five children.

Railway Board chairman AK Mittal said the derailment of the two trains may have been caused by a sudden flash flood. The movement of trains at the spot had been absolutely normal even 10 minutes before the accident and there was no inkling of problems at the site.An inquiry was ordered into the accident and the commissioner of railway safety (central zone) will conduct the probe.

The railways announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the next of the kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 to those who sustained serious injuries. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan too announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh to the next of kin of the dead, Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 for those who sustained minor injuries.

As rescuers initially grappled with darkness and inclement weather, survivors recounted the midnight horror.

Manoj Mongi, a resident of Muzaffarnagar who was on board Kamayani Express, said: “I was sleeping and suddenly I felt a jolt…I came out. I saw three women floating, but could not save them.”

Tax consultant Shashi Bhushan Pandit, another passenger, said: “The water level on the track was almost waist-high. The current was swift…I cannot say how many people are trapped.”

Railway officials said heavy rains in the past few days might have damaged the railway tracks.

“There was water on the tracks and the bridge was submerged. So, the last bogies of Kamayani Express got derailed. Simultaneously, on the other track, the engines and coaches of the Janata Express also got derailed,” railway spokesperson Anil Saxena said.

TV news channels reported some bogies of Kamayani Express fell into the Kalimachak river but Madhya Pradesh chief secretary Anthony de Sa did not confirm these reports.

“However, we are not taking chances and have alerted army units in Bhopal and Mhow. We have requested the defence ministry for help from army too. Teams of National Disaster Response Force and the State Disaster Response Force have left for the spot,” he told Hindustan Times.

Shortly after the accident, railways minister Suresh Prabhu tweeted: “Rushing emergency medical & other relief personnel to spot. darkness, water creating hurdles but ordered all possible help. Trying our best (sic).

“Local villagers, Admn r also in rescue operation. Everything that’s necessary and possible being done. Constant in touch with CM MP & Rail off (sic).”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan too tweeted about the accident, offering condolences to families of the victims and providing updates on rescue operations.

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