36 killed, 23 injured as Hirakhand Express derails near Rayagada

Hyderabad/Visakhapatnam/Vijayawada: The Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express (Train No 18448) derailed in Vizianagaram district at 11-15 pm on Saturday.

The accident site, at Odisha-Andhra Pradesh border and is near Rayagada town in Odisha, falls under Waltair Division of East Coast Railways. Engine and nine coaches — one passenger-cum-luggage coach, two ordinary second class coaches, four sleeper class, one AC three-tier coach and one AC two-tier coach — derailed. As per the information, 36 were killed and 23 were injured in the accident. They were admitted to hospitals. Some passengers with simple injuries were discharged after giving first aid. Medical relief train was rushed to the site. Ambulances were arranged. NDRF unit also rushed to the site.

The train had departed from Jagdalpur at 3 pm on Saturday and was scheduled to reach Bhubaneswar at 8-25 am on Sunday. The train ran off the track minutes after it entered Andhra Pradesh from Odisha. The train passes through part of north coastal Andhra before re-entering Odisha.

The cause of derailment is not yet known but officials suspect sabotage. However, the railway authorities have expressed doubts abourt sabotage as the accident site was Naxalite-infested area. Reports suggest that Naxalites might have involved in the incident as they wanted to prove their existence just before the Republic Day on January 26.

An official of East Coast Railway said one mobile train reached the accident site. The injured were shifted to hospitals nearby. The rescue and relief operations were underway. As there was complete darkness at the accident site, it took time for authorities to launch rescue and relief operations. “All rescue and relief apparatus mobilized immediately,” Ministry of Railways tweeted. Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu was personally monitoring the situation. He directed senior officials to reach to the site immediately, ensure prompt rescue and relief operations. Railway officials from nearby stations rushed to the site to monitor rescue operations.

Suresh Prabhu, expressing profound grief over the loss of innocent lives, has announced an enhanced ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakhs for the kin of the deceased travellers, Rs. 50,000 for the grievously injured and Rs.25,000 for those who was injured slightly. Statutory inquiry into the accident has been ordered. It will be conducted by Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), South Central Circle, Ram Kripal under the Ministry of Civil Aviation. He rushed to the accident site along with Chairman of Railway Board AK Mittal.

The stranded passengers were sent from Kuneru to Bhubaneswar via Rayagada-Sambalpur by train and bus. The railway administration also arranged for water, tea, light snacks for the stranded passengers. The derailment has hit traffic on Rayagada–Vizianagaram section. The railways had to divert, short-terminate and cancel certain trains passing through this section.

Senior railway officials, including East Coast Railway General Manager Umesh Singh and Divisional Railway Manager, Waltair Division, Chandralekha Mukherjee are camping at the site to monitor the relief and rescue operations. Helpline numbers were set up at the important stations along the route of the train.

Railway helpline numbers: Vizianagaram: 83331, 83332, 83333, 83334, 08922-221202, 08922-221206 Visakhapatnam: 83003, 83005, 83006, 0891-2746344, 0891-2746330, 08500358610 and 08500358712. Rayagada: 06856-223400, 06856-223500, 09439741181, 09439741071, 07681878777. Khurda: 0674 2490670. Bhubaneswar station: 06742543360; Behrampur station: 06802229632

18 bodies identified: Bodies of 18 victims, including that of six women, have been identified, Additional Divisional Railway Manager Ajay Arora said in Visakhapatnam on Sunday. The injured were admitted to various hospitals in Parvathipuram, Rayagadaa and Vizianagaram and King George Hospital Visakhapatnam where the condition of some of them was stated to be serious, he said.

The victims identified are: M Krishna (35), P Srinu (25), B Kamala (50), Gayatri Sahu (14), Dilip K R Routh (51), T L Mainj (45), Somu Annamma, Vishnu Prasad Sahu, Rajannyak (18), Subhash Ch Sahu (60), S Renuka, P Poli (35), Josodha Pandit, Ram Prasad Pandit, K Revathi (16), Mondal Balram, Suba Barati Sahu and Tapan Kumar Pradhan (26). Efforts are on to identify the remaining bodies, the officer said.

This was the third derailment in three months. In November 2016, 149 people died after 14 coaches of the Patna-Indore Express derailed near Pukhraya station in Uttar Pradesh’s Kanpur district. In December 2016, over 60 passengers were injured, some seriously, when 15 coaches of the Ajmer-Sealdah Express derailed near Kanpur.

Chandrababu orders CID probe: Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu has ordered a CID inquiry into the Hirakhand Express derailment and issued orders directing forensic teams to visit the accident spot as railway officials did not rule out sabotage. Chandrababu also spoke to Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Odisha Chief Minister Navin Patnaik.

Chandrababu also expressed deep sorrow over the accident and directed his cabinet colleagues of Uttarandhra to rush to the site and supervise rescue work. He also instructed the authorities concerned to provide better medical treatment to the injured and make arrangements to send bodies to their respective places.

Governor, KCR condolences: AP and Telangana Governor ESL Narasimhan has expressed his deep shock at the train accident and expressed his heartfelt condolences to the families of passengers who lost their lives.

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao also expressed condolences to the families of those killed in the train accident. “It is extremely disturbing and deeply painful over the loss of precious lives,” he said. –NSS

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