Twenty-nine people have died while 40 others are reported to be injured after two trains derailed at the same spot in Madhya Pradesh late last night. Around 250 people were rescued on Wednesday.
Meanwhile Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu told Parliament that, prima facie, the cause of the incident was "flash flood due to heavy rains"," even as opposition members shouted slogans against him. A railway official said that two trains had crossed that section just eight minutes before the accident and their drivers did not detect any problem.
The Janata Express, en route to Mumbai from Patna, first derailed at around 11.30 pm near Harda town while crossing the Machak river. Minutes later, Kamayani Express, coming from the opposite direction from Mumbai towards Varanasi, also derailed at the same spot.
Those reported dead include 13 men, 11 women and five children, whose bodies have been recovered from the mishap site between Khirkiya and Harda stations, Madhya Pradesh Public Relation Department Commissioner Anupam Rajan told PTI today.
Of these, 11 passengers were from Janata Express, while one was from the Kamayani Express, Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Bhopal, Alok Kumar said. The others could be local villagers or other people, he said.
An inquiry headed by Commissioner Railway Safety (Central Circle) has been ordered into the accident, and railway minister Suresh Prabhu has announced ex-gratia payments to be made immediately to those injured. He is expected to make a detailed statement on the accident later today in the Parliament.
Twin Train Derailment in MP: First Pictures from the spot where trains derailed pic.twitter.com/YQv5QhaNgS— ANI (@ANI_news) August 4, 2015
According to West Central Railway PRO Piyush Mathur, the twin derailments took place as the base material on the tracks had got washed away after the recent heavy rains. The accident spot is about 160 kilometres south of Bhopal, the state capital.
Though the state government said that 21 coaches of the two trains derailed, the DRM said seven bogies of the Janata Express plus engine and 10 of Kamayani Express derailed.
"Seven bogies of Kamayani Express including the engine plus three coaches of Janata Express were derailed between Khirkiya and Bhirangi stations near Harda," Mathur said.
Visuals of Kamayani Express & Janata Express accident in Madhya Pradesh. Passenger says train got stuck in mud pic.twitter.com/jcJRvYrh7s— ANI (@ANI_news) August 5, 2015
Meanwhile AK Mittal, Railway Board Chairman, said that a sudden flash flood had caused the incident. "Ten minutes back at this spot train movement was normal, there was no problem,"he said on Wednesday morning. "It appears that a suddenly flash flood came in 10 minutes' time, which resulted in the disturbance of track and the consequent derailment of the two trains."
Two railway helpline numbers have been issued: 05422503814, 62733
Patna Railway Station Helpline Numbers: 83288, 06122206967
Former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi said that the accident could have been avoided. "I don't consider it as an accident," he told ANI. "An accident is something which can't be avoided, this could've been avoided."
Calling it a "deep-rooted cancer" in the railways, Trivedi blamed bad maintenance as the cause behind the accident. "Truth is year after year, Railways require minimum Rs 60,000 crore to maintain and change old assets," he said. "Unfortunately they don't have money, it means knowingly you are jeopardising the life of the common man."
The two train accidents in Madhya Pradesh are deeply distressing. Deeply pained over the loss of lives. Condolences to families of deceased.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 5, 2015
My prayers with the injured. Authorities are doing everything possible on the ground. The situation is being monitored very closely.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 5, 2015
Very sad to learn of the derailment of 2 trains in Madhya Pradesh. My deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones in this mishap— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) August 5, 2015
An ex-gratia payment of Rs 2 lakh will be given to the family of the deceased in the accident, and Rs 50,000 and Rs 25,000 will be given to those critically injured and less injured, said railways spokesperson Anil Saxena.
(with agency inputs)