| The coaches of the Hyderabad-Bangalore Express which derailed 280 km from Hyderabad. (PTI)
Dec. 21: The engine and nine compartments of the Hyderabad-Bangalore Express jumped rails and overturned on a small bridge 280 km from here after midnight on Friday, killing 19 people and injuring 80.
A general bogie, a First Class AC compartment and a luggage van of the Bangalore-bound train were among the coaches that jumped tracks.
The accident comes three months after the showpiece Rajdhani Express derailed on a bridge in Bihar, leaving 126 people dead and raising questions about the safety of rail travel.
Senior railway officials said the toll was likely to go up. Cranes have been brought from Bangalore and Guntakal for rescue operations. Relief trains have been rushed from Guntakal, Secunderabad and Bangalore.
“The accident might have been caused by loosening of the track as the welding at the joints had broken under pressure from the high speed of the train,” an official said.
The compartments that jumped rails were at the back. “The engine at the back had not totally fallen off the track, unlike the other compartments. It had only got stuck on the ground in the space between the tracks,” said the general manager (operations) of South Central Railway.
The cracks were being welded and traffic would resume within eight hours, he added. This track is the main link between Guntakal and Kurnool and also links it to Nandyal junction for traffic towards coastal Andhra.
The train, which had left Hyderabad’s Kachiguda station at 7 pm and was travelling at 80-100 km an hour, crossed Paidirai station just past midnight. The accident occurred at Ramalingayapalli village between Paidirai and Pendekallu stations. Most of the passengers were asleep.
The bypass track between Gutti and Pendekallu was laid recently and has been fully operational for the past six months.
Technical education minister N. Anjaneyulu, who was travelling on the train, was the first to inform police of the accident. Five other state legislators, on a study tour to Bangalore, were also reported safe.
The railway minister has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1 lakh to relatives of the dead and ordered an inquiry into the accident.
District police chief M. Sanjay said 50 engineering students from Bangalore were in a coach that had overturned, add agencies. “They got out and worked feverishly to rescue dozens of others,” he said.
But hundreds of anxious relatives who thronged Bangalore central station complained that while the authorities did run a train to the accident spot for them, they were unable to provide reliable information.
An example was the case of Mohan Kumar of Madiwala in Bangalore, who was on the list of dead put out by the railways in the morning. His family was told the body would be brought by a special train in the evening. When the train reached at 6 pm, Mohan Kumar walked out alive.
The railway authorities put the blame on technical problems in the communication network between Kurnool and Bangalore.
Sarla Devi, another survivor, said relief work suffered from lack of coordination and planning. It took her and her co-passengers nearly six hours to get out of their coach, which was just behind the derailed bogies. “The local population and fellow passengers were of great help,” she added.
Naveen Jain, a passenger who helped in the rescue operations, said the accident happened with an explosive sound. “The train rocked for a few minutes and then the bogies started derailing,” he said. Jain, too, praised the local population for rushing to rescue passengers even though technical assistance was late.