Mumbai, June 24: The toll in Sunday night’s Konkan Railway crash has risen to 51 with more bodies being pulled out of the mangled wreck.
Railway authorities today said the accident was more serious than thought earlier, making it one of the deadliest mishaps in recent months.
The Karwar-Mumbai Holiday Special Express, carrying mostly tourists, crashed into huge boulders sitting on the tracks in blinding rain and pitch darkness. Three bogies and the engine of the train — returning to Mumbai from Ratnagiri — jumped rails at the mouth of a tunnel near Vaibhavwadi in Sindhudurg district due to the impact of the crash. The boulders had rolled down the mountainside and onto the tracks during a landslide set off by heavy rains.
Although this was the first major accident in this section, Konkan Railway tracks get badly affected during monsoon, when rains routinely cause landslides in the region.
Railway officials said rescue operations were on, but were being hindered by the rain. Sources say the toll could rise since one bogie is still trapped inside the Nerle tunnel.
About 150 army personnel of the Signals Training Centre in Panjim have rushed from Goa to assist rescue efforts. When reports last came in, rescue workers using cranes and gas cutters had not been able to remove the train’s engine and a bogie which remain trapped under rubble.
Sixty passengers have been admitted to various hospitals in Oros, Ratnagiri, Kankavli and Goa, with about 20 reported to be seriously injured.
Officials had said it would take between 24 and 48 hours to clear the debris and restore services, but have now stretched that deadline by at least another day.
Only nine bodies have been identified as most passengers were travelling in unreserved compartments. Railway officials have no idea how many people were travelling in the general compartments.
“Most bodies are lying at various hospitals and because they have not been identified, not many relatives have come forward to claim them,’’ a doctor said at the Kankavli government hospital.
The nature of the injuries has made matters more difficult for the hospital staff. Most bodies are badly battered as the train not only hit the boulders and skidded hundreds of feet, but was also engulfed in tonnes of mud and slush after a fresh landslide buried some bogies an hour after the accident.
Konkan Railway chief medical officer V.R. Vatsal said most victims had suffered multiple injuries and could not be identified by face.
Regional railway manager D.R. Shyamsunder said the tracks had not been damaged too badly. He was hopeful services would be restored at the earliest, but that seems unlikely before Thursday.
Officials said the Konkan Railway route has at least 46 “vulnerable spots’’ along its 760-km stretch and they would have to examine those areas all over again. “That will not be an easy task as we will have to be twice as careful now,” a senior official said.