As the death toll in Sunday’s train derailment tragedy near Kanpur rose to 149, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Monday ordered a “forensic probe” into the accident.
Rescue teams called off their search operation after pulling out 25 more bodies from the mangled coaches of the Indore-Patna Express that had derailed near Pukhrayan station, about 60 km from Kanpur city.
“The death toll in Indore-Patna Express accident has gone up to 146. Twenty-five more bodies were taken out and a person died at Regency Hospital in Kanpur,” North Central Railways spokesperson Vijay Kumar said.
He said of the 179 injured, 58 were seriously wounded and were being treated at different hospitals in Kanpur.
District Magistrate of Kanpur Dehat Kumar Ravi Kant Singh said that 137 bodies had been identified and three army personnel were among those killed. Efforts were being made to identify the remaining passengers, he added.
Fourteen coaches of the train, which was on its way from Indore to Patna, derailed around 3 a.m. on Sunday. Panic set in when the coaches derailed in darkness, throwing scores of sleeping passengers over one another. Many took a while to realise that a tragedy had hit the train.
The worst hit were the sleeper coaches S1, S2, S3 and S4.
At Patna Railway Station, where a special train carrying the stranded passengers arrived on Monday, the scene was quite emotional.
Anita Singh, one of the survivors, said: “We cannot forget the memories of death and destruction and how we survived inside the ill-fated Indore-Patna Express train.”
Saba Bano, another survivor, said: “Don’t know how to react. I am simply out of words… God is great!” That was all she could say.
Another passenger Puja Singh and her husband Virender Singh said it was like a “killer earthquake”. “It is still difficult for us to believe that we survived and are safe,” they said.
Railways spokesperson Anil Kumar Saxena said that the rescue operations conducted by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) as well as local police and the army was called off at 2 p.m. after all the bodies in the mangled coaches were recovered.
He also said that the damaged coaches had been removed from the rail tracks.
The NDRF said its personnel had rescued 55 passengers and retreived 74 dead bodies from the mangled rail coaches.
Meanwhile, the two Houses of Parliament expressed their condolences for those losing their lives in the train tragedy.
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu made a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha and said a “forensic probe” has been ordered in the tragedy. The statement was made amidst noisy scences in the House as opposition parties demanded adjournment motion on goverment’s demonitisation decision.
The junior Railways Minister Rajen Gohain made a similar statement in the Rajya Sabha.
Prabhu said strictest action would be taken against those found guilty.
“There shall be separate comprehensive investigation aided by latest technical and forensic analysis by an appropriate agency to look into all possible angles,” Prabhu said.
The Railways Minister also said that old-technology integral coach factory coaches being used at present lack “crash-worthy characteristics of modern coaches”.
“I had informed this House during the previous Railway Budget to progressively replace and phase out such coaches and this will be expedited,” Prabhu added.
Prabhu had ordered a high-level probe into the accident on Sunday.
Sunday’s accident was the worst train accident in the country after the May 2010 disaster in West Bengal involving Gyaneshwari Express, in which some 170 people were killed.
Prabhu and Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha had on Sunday visited the hospitals where the injured were being treated, as well as the accident site.
Sinha had earlier said the accident could have been caused due to “fracture” of the tracks.
Ravi Kant Singh said that they had handed over the bodies of the three army personnel to their families after conducting autopsy.
The army personnel had been identified as Lt. Sandeep Chahar, Captain Shivendu Mishra and Lt. Narender Kumar Sinha, he said.