Fourteen coaches of the high-speed Utkal Express jumped the rails, with one of them crashing into a house adjacent to the track near Khatauli in UP on Saturday evening evening, killing at least 23 people and leaving several others injured. The accident occurred around 5.45 pm near Khatauli town, 40 km off Muzaffarnagar, leaving 23 people dead, the Uttar Pradesh police said.
Deepak Agarwal, Commissioner, Saharanpur Divison and District Magistrate, Muzaffarnagar, G S Priyadarshi said the official figure of bodies in the mortuary was 21, while another body, of a woman, was being pulled out. Priyadarshi said 90 people were injured in the accident and most of them have been admitted at district hospital, Muzaffragnagar. Some others were taken to Muzaffarnagar Medical College and Meerut Medical College, he added.
Two of the deceased have been identified as residents of Saharanpur, the district magistrate said. Railway ministry officials in Delhi, however, put the number of dead at 12 and the injured around 75.
06.00 hrs Update of 18477 Express derailment:List of injured ,all types including trivial pic.twitter.com/ZOxtJ0WDlN— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) August 20, 2017
The train was coming from Puri in Odisha and going to Haridwar in Uttarakhand, normally a journey of about 36 hours.
Posses of PAC, ATS and NDRF teams, as also sniffer dog squads, were rushed to the spot to carry out rescue operations. The injured were shifted to nearby government and private hospitals.
NDRF officials said the search and rescue operations were "practically over" at the accident site with the last of the bodies presumably being pulled out from the wreckage of the coaches.
Heavyweight cranes and gas cutters were being used to lift or cut the mangled remains of the coaches and extricate passengers stuck inside.
Large number of local people and villagers were also seen helping out those engaged in the rescue work.
Policemen on the site said one of the derailed coaches had crashed into the wall of a house adjacent to the railway track and some people are feared to be trapped in the debris.
Manoj Baliyan, a local resident, said he heard a massive thud and the next thing he saw was a blue railway coach flying over another coach and hit his house like a giant projectile. When the 42-year-old man gathered his wits all he could see was scores of bodies in front of the house, along the railway track.
"A coach had even rammed the boundary wall of a college building near our house," said Baliyan, who runs a shop in the area.
"There was a massive thud and one of the coaches flew over the pantry car and rammed our house's porch," he told PTI.
The other end of the S2 coach is resting over the pantry coach with its doors shattered.
The driver of Kalinga Utkal Express was not informed that the track was under repair near Khatauli, initial probe into the accident has revealed. According to a Hindustan Times report, at least 15 metres of the track had been taken off and was being replaced when the train appeared, Railway officials said. Railways staff was engaged in "unofficial" maintenance of the track at the time of the mishap.
As the driver was not informed of the maintenance work, the train was running at a speed of 106 kmph while the speed limit during track maintenance must be around 10-15kmph. The railways staff failed to put any warning or sign on the track.
Seeing the train only metres away, labourers ran for their lives leaving the equipments and the replacement track.
PM Modi expresses pain, Suresh Prabhu orders probe
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed extreme pain over the derailment and said the Railway Ministry and the state government were doing everything possible and providing all assistance required.
He said the situation was being monitored very closely by the Railways Ministry.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu ordered an inquiry into the derailment. He said he was personally monitoring the situation and strict action will be taken in case of any lapse.
Prabhu also announced Rs 3.5 lakh ex-gratia compensation for those who lost their lives, Rs 50,000 for the seriously injured and Rs 25,000 for those who received minor injuries.
Principal Secretary (Information) Avanish Awasthi said Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has announced a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for the kin of the dead and Rs 50,000 for those injured.
In a series of tweets, Prabhu said Minister of State Manoj Sinha has rushed to the spot while the Chairman of Railway Board and Member Traffic have been asked to oversee rescue and relief operations.
"Rescue operations have been completed. All injured shifted to hospital. Restoration work will start now. Still monitoring situation closely.
"Have directed Railway Doctors to visit the injured in hospitals and ensure best possible medical help. "Restoration work commenced. First coach, re-railed at 2355 hrs. My heart goes out for the families, kin of the deceased and injured (sic)," Prabhu said in tweets.
Rescue operation underway
NDRF DG Sanjay Kumar said the rescue operations began at 8.50 pm and four teams were pressed into service. "Bodies of two males and a woman were extricated from beneath the mangled remains, while efforts were on to pull out another woman's body," he said in Khatauli.
The DG said the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) personnel were trying to bring back to the ground one of the coaches which had settled atop the other due to the impact of the crash, adding, "So technically the operation would be over once we put the coach back on ground."
Kumar said initially the NDRF had sent two teams from Ghaziabad but after seeing the magnitude of the tragedy two more teams were pressed into service.
Another senior NDRF official at the accident site said, "About 165 personnel, including dog-trainers, worked on the rescue operations."
Medical vans were also rushed to the site. The Railway ministry was also in close touch with the Uttar Pradesh government to coordinate rescue and relief operations.
In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh ADG (Law and Order) Anand Kumar said that top priority was being accorded to ensure prompt rescue and relief work.
Meanwhile, Railways spokesperson Anil Saxena said, "Initially, we thought that it was only 4-5 coaches, now we have ascertained that 14 coaches have derailed. As of now our focus is on rescue and not on finding reasons for the accident."
Since darkness was impeding rescue operations, he said the power department officials had been directed to ensure that there was no shortage of electricity.
Kumar also said IMA chapters in Meerut zone have been alerted and asked to ensure adequate and prompt medical care to the injured.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath enquired about the accident and directed officials to take all possible action, an official spokesperson said.
3 trains cancelled, 6 diverted
The derailment of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Kalinga Express near Muzaffarnagar resulted in cancellation of three train services, including Ambala-Delhi-Ambala Intercity Express and Haridwar-Puri Utkal Kalinga Express, commencing journey tomorrow.
Apart from this, six other trains, which commenced journey today, have been diverted, the railway ministry said in a statement.
According to the ministry, the 14521/14522 Ambala-Delhi-Ambala Intercity Express, 18478 Haridwar-Puri Utkal Kalinga Express and the 14682 Jalandhar-New Delhi Intercity Express, which will commence journey tomorrow, stood cancelled.
The 18238 Amritsar-Bilaspur Chhatisgarh Express has been diverted via Ambala- Panipat-New Delhi-Hazrat Nizamuddin, it said.
The 12904 Amritsar-Mumbai Central Golden Temple Mail has been diverted via Ambala-Panipat- New Delhi-Hazrat Nizamuddin. The 14646 Jammu Tawi-Delhi Shalimar Express has been diverted via Ambala-Panipat-Delhi.
The 19326 Amritsar-Indore Express has been diverted via Ambala-Panipat-New Delhi- Hazrat Nizamuddin.
The 04402 Katra-Anand Vihar service has been diverted via Ambala-Panipat-Delhi and will be short terminated at Delhi. The 24155 Allahabad-Udhampur Express has been terminated via Khurja-Delhi-Panipat-Ambala.
The track repair work is currently underway on the accident site.
Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said restoration of the rail line was in full swing.
"LUCAS (rerailing device) from SRE reached site at 2305 hrs. A full scale ART from Delhi also reached site at 110 hrs to expedite restoration. Another Accident Relief Train (ART) along with a 140-ton crane from Ambala Division is awaited at site shortly," he tweeted.
The railways also issued following helpline numbers:
Delhi 01123962389/01123967332 New Delhi 01123342954/01123341074 Nizamuddin 01124239748 Ghaziabad 09412715210 Muzaffarnagar 0131-2433099 Moradabad 05912420324 Roorkee 09760534056 Haridwar 09760534054/01334227477/01334227479/01334227480
Muzaffarnagar authorities have also set up a control room to assist families of those affected. The numbers are: 0131-2436918, 0131-2436103 and 0131-2436564.
(With PTI inputs)