They are suffering agonizing pain. They are traumatized for life. Yet they consider themselves fortunate for having survived their closest brush with death and being able to land up at a hospital to receive emergency medical attention.
Till 12 noon on Saturday, 11 injured passengers, most of who were traveling in the ill-fated Down SMVT Bengaluru – Howrah Superfast Yesvantpur Express, were admitted at the South-Eastern Railway Divisional Hospital in Kharagpur and lived to tell their horror tale. Here’s the story of three such miraculous survivors.
Shankar Das, migrant worker from Dum Dum
Thirty-three-year-old Shankar Das was returning home after seven months and was seated at the last but one general compartment at the rear end of Yesvantpur Express when the tragedy struck. Das worked as a daily wage earner in roof designing at bungalows in Bengaluru and needed a brief break from work to take care of some urgent business at home. Das had recently lost his father and his urge to return was also driven by his wish to remain close to his ailing mother for a while before he headed back for work.
Traveling alone, Das had barely finished his evening snack with two samosas on Friday evening and had gone back to chatting with his fellow passengers he had befriended during the course of his seven-hour journey when his world turned upside down… quite literally.
“There was a tremendous jerk and it felt like the sky was upon us. The coach was out of the tracks and it completely tilted even as it continued to move for a while. There was a massive sound accompanied by sparks of fire. I fell out of my seat and my co-passengers were violently tossed around. The heavy berths and other compartment parts crushed us. It’s impossible to describe the atmosphere around me when the accident struck,” Das, who is being treated for injuries in his neck, chest and limbs, said from his hospital bed.
The coach Das was travelling in overturned sideways and continues to remain that way more than 14 hours after the accident even as unidentified bodies pulled out from the wreck lay next to it in this sweltering heat.
“The people I was talking to and having a good time with a moment ago were suddenly lying all around me, covered in blood and possibly dead. I was numb with shock,” Das said, his voice choking.
Das went on to recount how he was pulled out from the coach by locals while still in a daze and numb in most parts of his body. “I walked to the nearest station (Bahanaga Bazar) along with a few passengers who made it out. We pooled in money and reserved a vehicle till Balasore since we felt we may be able to catch a train from there,” he said.
“At Balasore, I started having breathing problems. I was given some medicine, water and food by hawkers and railway officials at that station who then put me on a train that was short-terminated there and was going back. The railway officials verified my ticket, attached a note along with it and asked me to meet the station master at the terminal station. It was almost midnight when that train left Balasore,” he continued.
“I don’t remember the station I got down at. But it was somewhere on the Bengal-Odisha border. As advised, I met the station master and he put me on an ambulance which transported me to this railway hospital early this morning,” the injured passenger said and stated that was administered painkillers and other medicines besides x-ray and ECG tests done on him.
“I have informed my family of my whereabouts. My brother is on his way here along with a few neighbours,” Das said.
“I will have to go back to Bengaluru to work and I will have to board a train again to do that. But I don’t know how I would do that. I don’t think this trauma will leave me anytime soon. The images of the mangled bodies of my co-passengers keep coming back to haunt me the moment I close my eyes,” he muttered.
Jaya Dolui and her daughter Jayesha
A family and personality development counsellor, Jaya Dolui never imagined that her vacation along with her daughter Jayesha to her relatives in Bengaluru would end in such a nightmare. The duo, living in Baruipur in the southern fringes of Calcutta, was travelling back in compartment A1 of the Yesvantpur Express when a massive sound followed by a jerk threw her to the floor from her 2AC coach lower berth.
“My daughter, a 28-year-old high school teacher, was seated in berth number 41 which was a side-lower seat, and looking out of the window. The moment I was tossed to the floor, it felt like the train was falling to a bottomless pit. It was Jayesha’s screams which made me realize something terrible has happened,” the 54-year-old recounted.
“The entire glass window had collapsed on her and her whole body was covered in glass shards. She was bleeding from her chest and limbs and she was screaming in agonizing pain. I tried to reach her but couldn’t since the compartment was tilted. A while later some of our co-passengers reached her and took her to the toilet to have her changed and wounds attended to with whatever basic medicines they were carrying,” Dolui said.
“We were later transferred to A2 coach when the train left the accident site for Howrah after disconnecting the affected coaches including ours. We were contacted by railway officials. At Kharagpur, we were asked to board an ambulance. They brought us here and doctors have now removed all the glass shards from my daughter’s body and administered the necessary medicines and injections,” she said, sounding relieved.
“Trains are our favourite mode of travel. But I doubt we can continue to do that after this traumatic experience,” she stated.
The ordeal of Saroj Kumar
Ordeals of 30-year-old Saroj Kumar, a resident of Kharagpur and a passenger in the ill-fated Chennai-bound Coromandel Express, were far from over even after he reached his hometown and escaped the triple train disaster with minor injuries on his skull and left thumb.
Saroj Kumar at KGP SE Railway hospital after managing escape with minor injuries Telegraph picture
Kumar was headed for Rajamundry in Andhra Pradesh to attend a family wedding and had reserved a seat in the S3 compartment. He boarded the train from Kharagpur at 5.10 PM on Friday, barely two hours before the tragedy struck.
“I had my mobile phone in my hand when the collision happened. It flew out somewhere and I couldn’t recover it. I was carrying a bag which was kept in the upper berth and it got stuck in the badly dented berth after the accident. I had to crawl out of the compartment in a hurry before I had a chance to retrieve it since parts of it seemed to have caught fire,” Kumar, an accountant with a Kharagpur-based sponge iron factory, said.
“I lost my Aadhar card which was in that bag along with some other valuables,” he said. “But rail officials want me to do a medical check-up and receive first aid without delay. So I guess I will have to get admitted,” he added.
Kumar was running around to submit a missing property complaint at the local police station when The Telegraph Online caught up with him over the telephone with a relative accompanying him.
“The reason why so many people died is because the train was overcrowded. Too many people who didn’t have reservations were allowed to board the train. The railways should take a serious look into this,” Kumar complained.