People gather near the derailed coaches of the Dimapur-Kamakhya BG Express near Jagiroad in Morigaon district on Wednesday and injured (top right) Babul Chandra Debnath, K.Pouchun, Manoj Kumar Dev and Lalu Ravi Das in a hospital. (Pictures by AP and Barnali Handique)
Tegheria (Morigaon), April 16: Over 50 passengers were injured, eight seriously, when nine coaches and the engine of Dimapur-Kamakhya BG Express derailed here, near Jagiroad in Assam’s Morigaon district, in the wee hours today.
The derailment, which occurred around 2.15am between Aujuri and Jagiroad stations under the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR)’s Lumding division, around 60km from Guwahati, has cut off railway communication to and from parts of Upper and central Assam, besides Nagaland.
Railway authorities refused to comment on the possible cause of the derailment. “We have ordered a high-level inquiry,” said NFR general manager R.S. Virdi. The probe will be conducted by S. Nayak, commissioner of railway safety, Northeast Frontier Circle.
The NFR has requested anyone having knowledge about the cause of the accident or any other related matter to appear, depose and tender evidence before the inquiry commission at Jagiroad station tomorrow from 3pm and at Guwahati station on Friday from 9am.
An NFR official, requesting anonymity, said the cause of derailment could be either a possible track fault (a crack, caused by years of wear and tear, at one of the vulnerable joints held together with fishplates or fasteners) or an engine snag. He said preliminary inquiry had ruled out sabotage but they would have to wait till completion of the inquiry to arrive at any conclusion.
Virdi was personally supervising the track restoration work, which could not be completed till 8.30pm.
NFR public relations officer Nripendra Bhattacharyya said the track was likely to be repaired by tonight, as work was proceeding on a war footing. “Nearly a thousand railway employees are engaged in restoration work,” he said.
The derailment has damaged nearly 200m of tracks and 250 concrete sleepers. According to the NFR, the engine and six coaches derailed while three coaches capsized.
Bhattacharyya said eight of the 19 seriously injured passengers were admitted to NFR Central Hospital at Maligaon in Guwahati and 36 passengers with minor injuries were released after being administered first aid at the accident site. About 170 passengers were brought to Kamakhya railway station in Guwahati by a special train at 9.45am.
The railways have paid an ex gratia of Rs 5,000 to the injured. Eight local trains have been cancelled and some long distance ones, including the Dibrugarh-New Delhi Rajdhani Express, held at various railway stations, including Lumding and Guwahati.
Bapuram Bordoloi, a local resident, said an ear-splitting sound woke him up. As cries for help followed, he rushed to the spot and immediately informed police and railway officials about the accident.
Kailash Chetri, another resident, said the cause could be a fault in the track. “Last year, a similar derailment was averted by some villagers who stopped the Howrah-bound Kamrup Express after noticing that concrete sleepers were missing from the railway track at Tegheria. Something like that could have happened today. The railways must carry out routine checks properly to avoid such accidents.”
Chetri and his friends were the first to carry out rescue operations. “The passengers were shouting for help. Three coaches had jumped off the tracks and capsized into a swamp on the left side. We had a tough time bringing out these trapped passengers.”
The local residents were helped in rescue efforts by CISF personnel of Nagaon Paper Mill at Jagiroad. Local residents said the police arrived at the spot after an hour.
The train’s driver Babul Chandra Debnath, 55, was clueless about what went wrong. “All of a sudden, the train jumped off the tracks and I got wounded. I could not figure out what actually happened,” he said. He is undergoing treatment at the NF Railway Central Hospital.
Debnath’s assistant, Manoj Kumar Dev, 30, who injured his left hand and back, told The Telegraph, “Everything was normal. We were driving at 80kmph and there was no restriction on that route.”
Lalu Ravi Prasad, 27, who boarded the train at Dimapur, said, “I was sleeping on the upper berth and was woken up by a loud sound. A jerk threw me on the floor and I hurt my shoulder and waist.”