Hirakhand derailment: Train crash likely sabotage, says railway

At least 40 dead as Hirakhand Express goes off rail in Andhra Pradesh.

Bhubaneswar/Visakhapatnam/New Delhi: At least 40 passengers have been killed in the tragic derailment of the Bhubaneswar-bound Hirakhand Express, which jumped the tracks late on Saturday night at Kuneru in Andhra Pradesh’s Vizianagaram district.

Two AC coaches, four sleeper coaches, two general coaches and the guard coach besides the locomotive were damaged in the derailment — the third in as many months.

Railway spokesperson Anil Saxena said there are indications of foul play as a goods train passed the same track just two hours before the mishap, which occurred in the Naxal-prone zone just ahead of the Republic Day. But Odisha police officials have ruled out involvement of Maoists in the mishap.

Much of the debate revolves around a 15-inch gap in the rails. General Manager of the East Coast Railway, Umesh Singh, who visited the accident spot, said he had never seen such a huge gap in a railway track. Officials believe this crack is primarily responsible for the crash.

A goods train passed through at 9.05 pm on Saturday and the track supervisor inspected the Kuneru section at 10.45 pm and found nothing unusual. Another goods train arrived at Kuneru station on the same track at 10.52 pm and was moved to another track to allow the Hirakhand Express to pass. The mishap took place between 11.15 pm and 11.20 pm.

Toll to go up, Prabhu says guilty will not be spared
The death toll is likely to go up. The injured passengers were admitted in hospitals in Visakhapatnam and Parvatiparam in Andhra Pradesh and Rayagada in Odisha.

According to East Coast Railway (ECoR) chief public relations officer J.P. Mishra, seven coaches — a luggage van, two general coaches, two sleeper coaches, one AC three-tier coach, one AC two-tier coach — and the engine derailed. Coaches S8 and S9 were heavily damaged and most of the deceased were from these two coaches. The 22-coach Hirakhand Express train got derailed and hit a stationary goods train standing on the adjacent track at Kuneru.

While the relief and rescue operations were on, Commissioner Rail Safety under the Ministry of Civil Aviation has ordered a probe into the incident. The rail traffic that was disrupted due to the mishap is expected to be restored by Monday morning.

“Soon after the derailment, four accident relief vans were sent to the spot. The reason behind the incident was yet to be ascertained,” the CPRO Mr Mishra said.

As many as five units of National Disaster Rapid Action Force (NDRF) and two units of Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) were also pressed into rescue and relief operation.

Reports said heavy casualty occurred as the derailed coaches rammed into a stationary goods train standing in the on the adjacent track.

At 3.25 am on Sunday, 12 unaffected coaches of the train carrying the unharmed passengers left for Bhubaneswar by Sambalpur-Angul road.

Railway minister Suresh Prabhu who visited the accident site and the injured patients at Rayagada hospital in the afternoon said action would be taken against those whosoever is found responsible for the accident.

“Some passengers have been injured in the accident. The entire Railways administration and the AP and Odisha governments are engaged in providing medical treatment and relief to the injured. We are investigating the cause of the accident. Whatever be the reason behind the accident will be fully investigated. Stringent action will be taken against whosoever is responsible for it,” said Mr Prabhu.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle with agency inputs )
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