Orissa rail tragedy toll revised to nine (Roundup)

February 14th, 2009 - 7:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Jajpur Road (Orissa), Feb 14 (IANS) About 150 people who were injured when a superfast train was derailed in Orissa Friday evening were in hospital Saturday, while officials revised the death toll to nine.

Several coaches of the Howrah-Chennai Coromandel Express went off the track near the Jajpur-Keonjhar Road railway station, about 120 km from Orissa capital Bhubaneswar, at about 7.30 p.m.

Soon after the accident, police and railway officials here as well as Railway Minister Lalu Prasad put the death toll at 15 but it now stands at nine.

“The earlier estimate was based on the preliminary report we got from the staff engaged at the spot. But only nine bodies have been recovered so far,” East Coast Railway chief public relation officer J.P. Mishra said.

“People engaged in the rescue operation have checked all the derailed coaches. I do not think there could be more bodies under the debris,” he added.

Local people and officials started efforts to rescue passengers trapped under the mangled coaches.

On Saturday morning, hundreds of locals and passengers’ relatives thronged the government hospital in Jajpur and the Sriram Chandra Bhanja Medical College hospital at Cuttack, where the injured were admitted.

“Only five passengers have grievous injuries but all of them are safe,” Mishra told IANS.

“Others have minor injuries. A majority of passengers with minor injuries were already discharged after first-aid. Things are becoming normal fast.”

Senior officials told reporters in Bhubaneswar that at least 100 doctors and 400 health officials and volunteers were attending to the injured.

A state government official said: “We have also created a special trauma centre for the victims in the SCB medical college where at least 41 people have been admitted.”

At least two special trains, one to Howrah and the other to Chennai, were run Saturday to take the other passengers to their destinations.

“Some 700 passengers have already left today,” Mishra said.

Describing the accident, he said: “Fourteen coaches went off the track, and at least four of them including the engine were badly damaged.”

Santosh Prajapati, who was travelling on the Chennai-bound train, had got up to charge his mobile phone when the lights suddenly went out followed by a loud noise.

On stepping out of his coach, he saw people trapped under mangled bogies and realised that the train had derailed.

“I went outside and saw many people shouting for help. I saw the train had derailed. Bogies were lying over one another. We rescued some people, including a small child, but many were trapped under mangled coaches and we were helpless,” Prajapati, a resident of Bihar, told IANS.

Said Rabindra Rout, a resident of a nearby village who rushed to the spot minutes after the accident: “It was dark and we saw there was a spark of light. We rushed to the spot and saw the train had derailed.

“People were screaming for help. We rescued many people in critical condition,” he added.

Railway officials were now focussing on restoring the infrastructure.

Mishra said work was on to lift the derailed coaches and restore the track, Mishra said.

“We hope the coaches will be removed from the track by late night today and train services will become normal by tomorrow morning,” he said adding that at least nine trains were cancelled and routes of five trains were diverted Saturday.

The official also said: “A high-level probe has been ordered to ascertain the reasons behind the accident.”

A team of railway ministry officials led by Minister of State for Railways R. Velu and including railway board chairman S.S. Khurana visited the site.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also visited the spot and the two hospitals where he met the survivors and assured all help from the state government. He announced that the state government will bear all medical expenses.

The railway ministry has announced compensation of Rs.500,000 to the family of each of those killed, Rs.50,000 for each of those who sustained major injuries and Rs.10,000 for every passenger who had a minor injury.

The ministry will provide a government job to one person of each of the families who have lost their near and dear in the mishap.

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