A father searched in vain for his missing son for five days in Odisha before leaving his DNA sample in Balasore and returning home to Kakdwip, South 24-Parganas, on Thursday afternoon.
Abbachuddin Seikh, 20, a resident of Madhusudanpur in Kakdwip block, was part of a group of 11 men from the village on the Coromandel Express that was involved in the June 2 crash.
“I searched for my son for five days, travelling hundreds of kilometres across Odisha, from one hospital morgue to another, but could not find him,” Ebadall Seikh, Abbachuddin’s father, said on Thursday.
“On Wednesday, I gave my blood sample for a DNA match and set off for home.”
He added: "The mental stress has been unbearable for me and my family. I still don’t know whether my son is alive.”
The 11 passengers from Madhusudanpur were travelling to Chennai to work as construction labourers, as this newspaper had reported earlier.
One of them was found alive and is being treated at a Cuttack hospital. The bodies of three others have been identified. The remaining seven are missing.
A group of their relatives from the village, including Ebadall, had set off for Balasore after the crash.
“After hearing about the accident, we travelled to Balasore in a private vehicle, arriving at the accident site around 5 on Saturday morning. We then began a desperate search,” Ebadall said.
He first visited the school near the accident site where the bodies had been kept. “But I could not find my son’s body,” he said.
Over the next few days, the group from Madhusudanpur searched the morgues at “seven or eight” hospitals in Balasore, Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. “We often travelled through the night from one city to another, and spent the daylight hours going from one hospital to another,” Ebadall said.
“Last Tuesday, the driver of the vehicle said he could not drive any more and needed to sleep. So, we rented a room in Bhubaneswar for a day so the driver could rest.”
Eventually, help arrived from home: the block development officer of Kakdwip, Wrik Goswami, arranged for the group to provide their DNA samples in Odisha and return home.
State government officials said Goswami had collated information about the passengers from the block who were on the two express trains involved in the crash.
“After collecting data about the blood relations of those missing, the BDO sent a vehicle with officials and funds to Odisha to provide help to the group from Madhusudanpur looking for their missing relatives,” an official said. “He also coordinated with Odisha police and ensured the group gave their DNA samples and returned home.”
Ebadall said that after giving his blood sample, he returned in the car provided by the BDO, arriving home around 3pm on Thursday.
Father and son would earlier travel together to other states for work. Ebadall was a skilled construction worker and Abbachuddin a helper. “During the first wave of the Covid pandemic, we were in Kerala. We were stuck there for months before returning home,” Ebadall said.
Recently, father and son had gone to Gujarat to work at an ONGC project where Ebadall was paid Rs 12,000 a month and his son, Rs 8,000.
“In Chennai, they had offered him Rs 400 a day; so he was going there,” Ebadall said. “I did not accompany him this time.”
Abbachuddin is Ebadall’s elder son. His younger son is 10 years old. Abbachuddin has a wife and a six-month-old son, Ebadall said.
“His wife and mother are crying. They had expected me to bring him home,” he said.