The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Passengers point finger at ‘jerking’ train

Gaya, Sept. 10: When Bapi Joardar of Baguiati on the northern fringe of Calcutta dozed off around 10:30 pm on Monday, little did he know what was to follow.

“Suddenly, I heard the sound of a huge explosion and the train jumped several feet from the rails. As I blacked out, I saw passengers falling on each other,” he said. He was one of the passengers who took the special train back to Calcutta this afternoon.

Joardar, who was in coach AS-5, came round at the sound of windowpanes being shattered. “An iron rod was stuck into the compartment and the rest of the window was soon broken. It was pitch dark outside and the local youths had embarked on a rescue operation with torches and lanterns. They were breaking the windows with bamboo sticks and rods. I found myself being dragged out of the broken window,” he recalled.

“In the dim light, I saw that I was profusely bleeding all over. Shouts of pain and agony filled the air. The locals took me to a distance and made me sit on the railway track.”

According to him, a Sikh doctor, Hanumant Singh, who was in the same compartment, went around the accident site with a blood-soaked turban, with his meagre stock of medicines and bandages, to treat the injured.

Bhikhu Agarwal from Behala, who was travelling in the same coach, said the train had started to jump frequently after it crossed Dhanbad.

“I felt scared and I didn’t know when I fell asleep. I woke up with a start when a passenger fell on me from the overhead bunk. When I was fully awake, men, women and children were lying in heaps with loads of luggage on them. There were also some twisted limbs. I realised it was an accident,” he added.

According to Agarwal, local residents pulled him out of the compartment and left him in the dark on the tracks. “After at least three hours, a few people arrived with first-aid boxes, which were grossly inadequate to meet the situation. I was bleeding heavily from the head and it was the locals who gave me first-aid. They even gave milk and water to many of the injured, including women and children,” he said.

The condition of Anup Sikdar of Howrah was worse. After being dragged out of AS-1, Sikdar lay sprawled on the ground with both arms broken and a crippling injury in his waist.

“The police arrived after about two hours, but strangely, they stood as mere bystanders. Everyone was shouting for help but the policemen were mere onlookers. The rescue operation suddenly gathered momentum only after railway minister Nitish Kumar arrived at the accident site much later,” he said.

“The lives of many passengers could have been saved had the rescue operation been launched in time,” Sikdar added.

B.K. Thapa from Howrah recalled that shortly after the train rolled out of Howrah station, it stopped at least thrice with severe jolts. “I am sure that the train was defective. When it reached Asansol, we experienced severe jerks. A little after 10:30 pm, we heard a big explosion and I lost consciousness,” he said.

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