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Lightning strikes rail tickets

Server hit, reservation stalled for 4 hours

Central Calcutta at 3pm on Tuesday, just before the thundershower. A study has found that rising air pollution levels could be contributing to an increase in the intensity and frequency of lightning strikes. 
Picture by Pradip Sanyal 

Calcutta: Tens of thousands of people were unable to book railway tickets online and the preparation of reservation charts was halted for nearly four hours after lightning struck the central server of the passenger reservation system for eastern India on the eighth floor of a Calcutta building.

The server is maintained and operated by the Centre for Railway Information Systems in the 15-storey Koilaghat office of Eastern Railway on Strand Road.

"Lightning apparently struck the antennas of the server and the system conked out. We had to work on a war footing to restore the system. The damaged equipment had to be replaced," an Eastern Railway official said.

The 3.40pm lightning strike affected the reservation systems in Bengal, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, several northeastern states and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, officials said.

"Big stations like Howrah and Sealdah have back-up systems where the existing reservation data are stored; so we could prepare the reservation charts there. But new reservations could not be made," a railway official said.

"At smaller stations, trains were delayed because such back-up was not available and people could not book tickets at the counters."

The services were restored at 7.20pm, railway officials said, but several passengers alleged the system took much longer to become functional.

The railway passenger reservation system hub in Calcutta serves six zones - Eastern Railway, South Eastern Railway, Northeast Frontier Railway, East Central Railway, East Coast Railway and South East Central Railway - catering to more than 3 lakh passengers of 750 trains every day.

The hub runs 2,500 ticket counters across several states and one Union territory. A lightning strike had earlier killed a trainee cricketer on a Calcutta playground on Sunday afternoon and another was suspected to have caused a blaze inside the unoccupied top floor of a three-storey house near Gariahat.

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