Three passengers of the train crash in Odisha who arrived here on Saturday claim the number of deaths in the accident at Balasore is likely to be much higher than known now, as the unreserved compartments were packed, carrying mostly migrant workers to Tamil Nadu or Kerala.
Nagendran, who works in Kolkata and hails from Ramanathapuram, was one of the passengers on board the accident hit Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, who arrived at Chennai airport this afternoon. He said, "The second the accident happened I thought I was going to be dead. I had left Kolkata for Chennai yesterday in Coromandel Express. The accident happened near Balasore." The Coromandel train driver applied brakes on seeing the goods train and that is why scores of passengers survived, he said. The Sleeper and general cars were the worst affected.
"I was in B1 compartment (AC coach). B1 to B4 compartments were unaffected. B5 coach had derailed...Volunteers arrived at the spot first and helped. It was completely dark. We could not see anything clearly...All of us in the AC coaches were in disbelief that when so many people died, we had survived," he said.
A young woman passenger who arrived at the Chennai Airport told mediapersons: "We felt the train derail. The lights began to flicker. There was smoke. I am not sure how many trains were involved. We were scared. Passengers inside the compartment were safe. Some suffered minor injuries. The elderly were removed from the compartment with the help of volunteers," she said.
A student of a city college, Rajalakshmi said she had been to Kolkata for an internship. She remembered the accident as having occurred around 7 pm on June 2, and said that due to the impact of the sudden collision and derailment, passengers in her coach fell down and one man sustained a bleeding injury on his nose.
Several passengers who had travelled in the unreserved compartments appeared to be migrant workers heading to Tamil Nadu or Kerala, she said. "I could see some of them wailing as they lost their dear ones," she said.
Another passenger, Ramesh of Tenkasi district, said the accident was devastating. "The death toll could be on the higher side than being imagined now," he said.
The Tamil Nadu government has established contact with 127 passengers of Train number 12841 - Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express and another five of 12864 Sir Viswesvaraya Terminal-Howrah Superfast Express, said Tamil Nadu Revenue Minister K K S S R Ramachandran.
He told reporters here that a supplementary team of officials comprising two district revenue officers, three deputy collectors and three tahsildars who are conversant in Hindi and Odia have left to Odisha to coordinate with the officials in the rescue activities.
On its part, the health department in Tamil Nadu has readied about 40 beds in the ICU at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital here and alerted the medical teams in other major hospitals in the city and the periphery to extend medicare to the injured passengers who would arrive on June 4.
"About 100 doctors have been told to remain alert and respond to any emergency," Health Secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi said.
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