Their physical disability trapped them in burning train

August 2nd, 2008 - 6:14 pm ICT by IANS  

By Mohammed Shafeeq
Hyderabad, Aug 2 (IANS) Among the most tragic deaths in the fire accident on the Gautami Express was that of three physically challenged people, including two women. They were fast asleep on their berths and unlike many others were not even able to run for safety when the fire was noticed. The fire struck early Friday morning, cutting short many promising lives, shattering many a dream and adding to the misery of hapless families of the victims.

The three - V. Satyanarayana (40), E. K. Manga (23) and C. Shantakumari (36) - hail from East Godavari district and were returning home along with three other physically challenged people after attending a five-day training programme organised by a non-governmental organisation in Hyderabad.

They were among 32 people killed in the massive fire that broke out on the ill-fated train that was going from Secunderabad to Kakinada town in coastal Andhra.

Three other physically challenged people of the group were rescued by other passengers and some policemen.

This group of physically challenged had covered a long distance to come to the state capital in the hope that the skill development training programme would help them improve their living conditions, but their return journey turned into a nightmare.

The survivors included group head B. Subbayamma, 38, the coordinator of the Vikalangula Pratyeka Pratibha Trust (VPPT), a NGO. “I took them for the training programme to improve their living conditions, but never imagined that this tragedy was waiting to happen,” said Subbayamma at the MGM Hospital in Warangal, where she is undergoing treatment.

“Their cries for help and our disability to come out of the burning compartment will haunt me for the rest of my life. I don’t know how I will face their families,” she said, trying to recover from the shock.

Satyanarayana’s wife and two children are still hoping that he will return home. His parents said they had tried to persuade him not to undertake the long and tiring journey.

The parents of Manga, a degree student, were crying inconsolably. Both work as labourers and had hoped that the training would help their daughter earn a livelihood.

Shantakumari, who was running a public telephone booth, had also hoped that the training would help her in developing her skills.

Among other tragic stories is that of A. Sarita (23), and her husband B.V. Ravi Kumar (30), both ayurvedic physicians. They had married in September last year and were expecting their first child. Sarita, who was in advanced stage of pregnancy, was going to her parents’ house in Amlapuram town. The couple boarded the ill-fated train which left Secunderabad on Thursday night.

While Sarita’s body was found, there is still no word about Ravi Kumar and their family members fear the worst. Sarita’s parents had made all preparations to welcome the couple, but the news of the tragedy has sent the family into shock.

Bhagyalakshmi (59) wanted her son V. Srinivas to be a doctor. She along with her husband G. Nageswara Rao, a police constable, and 16-year-old daughter arrived here a few days ago for medical counselling. After completing the admission process, the parents along with the daughter were returning to East Godavari district when tragedy struck.

“I woke up after hearing screams and alerted my wife and daughter and we ran towards the door. The train had come to a halt. While I got down with our daughter, my wife was caught in the smoke,” recalled Nageswara Rao. Bhagyalakshmi fell down on the ground and died of suffocation.

The tragedy has also shattered the life of K. Durga Reddy. While he escaped the jaws of death, his inability to save his wife and son will continue to haunt him for the rest of his life. “I don’t know why I am still alive,” said Reddy, sobbing near the MGM Hospital in Warangal where the remains of 29 passengers were kept.

People were moved to see Reddy frantically running around the accident site on Friday looking for his wife Sridevi (23) and son Adityavardhan (9). Both were feared killed.

Hailing from Karimnagar, 29-year-old Reddy was going to a temple in coastal Andhra to fulfil a vow. They had tickets of S-22 but fate willed otherwise. “We wanted berths and the ticket collector asked to go to S-10. We were about to settle down when we heard cries of other passengers and ran towards the door. There was a stampede and I don’t what happened to my wife and son,” said Reddy.

The fire broke out in S-10 coach and engulfed four adjacent coaches.

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