Even as the news of one of the worst train tragedies of recent times started trickling in from a remote hamlet of Bahanaga Bazar in the Balasore district of Odisha, the Bengal government, in tandem with its counterpart in Odisha, announced a slew of measures to aid relief and rescue of those involved in the accident.
Till reports last received, at least 70 people were killed and over 350 injured in the horrific triple train crash involving the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Humsafar Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express and a goods train.
At 8.47 PM on Friday, about an hour and half after the shocking accident, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted: “Shocked to know that the Shalimar- Coromondel (sic) express, carrying passengers from West Bengal, collided with a goods train near Balasore today evening and some of our outbound people have been seriously affected/ injured. We are coordinating with Odisha government and South Eastern Railways for our people's sake. Our emergency control room has been activated at once with numbers 033- 22143526/ 22535185.”
“All out efforts for rescue, retrieval, aid and assistance initiated. We are sending a 5- 6 members team to the spot to cooperate with the Odisha government and railway authorities and to assist rescue operations. I am monitoring the situation continually personally with Chief Secretary and other senior officers,” the tweet went on to read.
That announcement was soon followed by a 9pm online press briefing by state chief secretary HK Dwivedi where the top bureaucrat confirmed that “25 ambulances, 12 doctors and two dead body carriers have been dispatched to Balasore.”
“A Special Control Room has become functional for the assistance of the family members of the victims: 03222-226924, 03222-229100, 03222-228044. DGP's Control Room, Nabanna - 033-2214 5486 & 2214 4031,” a message from the state secretariat read.
Ten minutes later, South Eastern Railway authorities tweeted the following help line numbers at the key railway stations: “Howrah Help line Number : 033-26382217 Kharagpur Help line Number: 8972073925 & 9332392339 Balasore Help line Number: 8249591559 & 7978418322 Shalimar Help line Number: 9903370746.”
A two-member team representing the state, comprising minister Manas Bhunia and MP Dola Sen, is scheduled to be headed for Balasore on Saturday. The team would visit the accident site to oversee rescue operations, transport of bodies back home and also visit the injured undergoing treatment at different hospitals in Odisha. The leaders would be responsible for keeping the Bengal chief minister posted about the ground situation so that quick administrative decisions can be taken to aid those in distress, an official confirmed.
Meanwhile, Bengal BJP president Sukanta Majumdar left Kolkata for the accident site early Saturday morning to lend his party’s assistance to the distressed passengers.