At least nine passengers have died, and around 36 others have been injured after the Guwahati-Bikaner Express 15633 derailed in Jalpaiguri near Domohani in North Bengal around 5 pm on Thursday, 13 January.
"The Guwahati-Bikaner Express 15633 (up) derailed at about 5 pm this evening. 12 coaches have been affected. The Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) and Additional Divisional Railway Manager (ADRM) rushed to the site along with accident relief train and medical van," the Indian Railways said in a statement released on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw reached the train accident site on Friday morning.
Later, he was quoted as saying, "Preliminary inquiry shows there was a glitch in locomotive equipment. The Commission of Rail Safety is conducting an inquiry to find the root cause behind the accident."
Vaishnaw also visited the injured people at a hospital in Jalpaiguri on Friday afternoon.
Union Minister John Barla was quoted as saying by ANI on Friday morning, "Death toll in Bikaner-Guwahati Express mishap has risen to 9. Rescue operation is over. 36 injured were admitted to different hospitals. Passengers were sent to Guwahati by special train."
According to ANI, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) Director-General, Atul Karwal, had earlier said: "2 coaches derailed; 4 casualties and over 50 injured who have been hospitalised. Two NDRF teams at the spot for rescue & relief."
The injured have been taken to district hospitals in Jalpaiguri and New Moinagudi. An Indian Railways official said, "About 30-35 ambulances reached the spot around 5:30 pm. All injured were taken to hospital. Rescue work almost complete."
Later, over 200 BSF personnel from the nearest camp reached the spot to carry out the rescue operation, ANI reported. Teams of the NDRF also assisted in the operation.
Following the incident, a survivor was quoted as saying by PTI, "A heavy jerk followed a loud sound, I fell from my berth and everything went blank."
According to the news agency, Manohar Pal, a local who was one of the first to reach the site of the incident and assist in the rescue work, said, "We initially thought it was some sort of a blast. But as we rushed towards the source of the sound, we saw train coaches mangled with each other. We heard people screaming from the derailed coaches. We immediately tried to pull them out."
The Indian Railways also announced an ex gratia for the families of the deceased and for the injured. "Ex gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh for deceased, Rs 1 lakh for severely injured, and Rs 25,000 for those with minor injuries."
Rajiv Jain, ADG PR, Indian Railways, said on Friday that out of the nine deceased, five had been identified and their families had been given Rs 5 lakh each, as reported by ANI.
He said, "We've also given Rs 1 lakh each to the 10 grievously injured persons and Rs 25,000 each given to 26 minor injured."
High-Level Probe Ordered
Guneet Kaur, chief PRO, North-East Frontier Railway, Guwahati, said that a high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident.
"A high-level Railway Safety inquiry has been ordered in the Guwahati-Bikaner Express 15633 derailment; Railway helpline numbers - 03612731622, 03612731623," Indian Railways said in a statement.
Meanwhile, according to ANI, TMC MP Saugata Roy said, "It is suspected that there was a crack on the track, it should be investigated. The Railway Minister should give a clear statement on the incident."
'Survivors to Get Medical Attention ASAP': CM Mamata Banerjee
Following the mishap, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted that the survivors would receive medical attention as soon as possible.
"Deeply concerned to hear about the tragic accident of the Bikaner-Guwahati Express in Maynaguri. Senior Officers of the State Government, DM/SP/IG North Bengal are supervising rescue and relief operations. Those injured will receive medical attention, as early as possible," she wrote.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has also spoken to Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee regarding the train derailment. Banerjee has assured the Assam CM that assistance is being given on the ground and that the Assam government will be updated on the ongoing situation.
Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw Visits Accident Site
Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw reached the train accident site on Friday morning.
He was quoted as saying that "A statutory inquiry has been initiated. PM Modi is monitoring the situation and I'm in constant touch with him. I wish a speedy recovery to the injured."
Late Thursday night, Vaishnaw had said, "I am reaching the site tomorrow morning (Friday). Medical teams, senior officers at the spot. PM Modi also took stock of the situation and rescue operation. Our focus is on rescue. Ex gratia also announced."
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also tweeted on Thursday evening and extended condolences to the bereaved families. He said in his tweet, "Spoke to Railways Minister Shri Ashwini Vaishnaw and took stock of the situation in the wake of the train accident in West Bengal. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly."