| Flames engulf the bus that was hit by the Bagh Express near Siwan. The fire spread to the engine after which local villagers set the entire train on fire. (Above) Earlier in the day, residents of Bhagwat Nagar in Patna protested against a demolition drive and set a government car on fire. Pictures by The Telegraph and Ranjeet Kumar Dey
Siwan/Patna, Sept. 26: A speeding express train rammed into a bus carrying engineering students that had come on to the tracks because the gates of a manned level crossing were open, crushing to death seven youths who were trapped inside the vehicle that was pushed for about half a kilometre before coming to a stop.
The bus that was hit by the 13019 Up Bagh-Express, that runs from Howrah to Kathgodam, was carrying 40 students of DAV Engineering College in Siwan.
At least 24 injured students were initially taken to the district hospital in Siwan, where 15 are still undergoing treatment. Five students whose condition is serious were referred to PMCH, Patna.
All those killed are aged between 20 and 23 years.
The accident has again brought the glare on railway safety as the gates of the crossing at Chap, just outside Siwan town, about 145km north of Patna, were open when they should have been shut. Railway crossing gates are supposed to be shut at least 10 minutes before a train is due to pass.
The bus drove through the crossing around 2.45pm, just at the moment the Bagh Express was passing by. The train driver had no time to react and he rammed into the vehicle.
The accident touched off a wave of violence as enraged villagers first pelted stones at the coaches and then set on fire the engine and the AC bogies. But as evening progressed, they set ablaze the entire train.
The passengers had to jump off the train and flee, some even managing to carry their luggage. The violence continued unabated till 8.30pm. Officials from the Siwan district administration and the railways were not allowed to enter the site of the mishap.
Rail traffic on the Hajipur-Gorakhpur route remained blocked for over six hours. About half-a-dozen trains had to be diverted. Some trains were stuck near Siwan till 9.30pm.
The passengers on the Bagh Express were stranded till late tonight as the railways were yet to arrange a special train for them.
“The Bagh Express was turned into a burning train. Nobody could go anywhere near it. The passengers have been shifted to safe places. The bodies of the deceased students were sent to their families in ambulances,” said an eyewitness.
The scene at the district hospital was heart-wrenching. Doctors and paramedical staff were battling to cope with the situation as a number of local residents had assembled there.
Sources said the driver of the train escaped after the accident.
Vinod, one of the passengers on board the Bagh Express, said he was taking a quick afternoon nap when he was woken up by the sound of stones being pelted.
“I was terrified and asked the policemen to protect me. The police told me to get off the train and flee to a safer place with my belongings. I did not have much of luggage with me. But some of my fellow passengers left their luggage behind,” he said.
North Eastern Railway’s chief public relations officer Amit Singh said they were trying to ascertain why the crossing gates were not closed. “Those responsible for the lapse won’t be spared,” he said.
The railways have announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the families of those killed. Those seriously injured will get Rs 1 lakh and those with minor injuries will get Rs 25,000.
Chief minister Nitish Kumar has spoken to the in-charge railway minister, C.P. Joshi. Minister of state for railways K.H. Muniyappa is on his way to Siwan.