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'What I Saw Was Unforgettable': Survivors Of Odisha Train Tragedy Recount Horror

A day after the accident, The Quint spoke to passengers of one of the trains involved.

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Asu Sheikh couldn’t stop thanking Allah several times as he reached the Howrah station on Saturday, 3 June, in the ill-fated Yesvantpur-Howrah express that was part of the horrific train accident near Bahanga station in Odisha’s Balasore district on 2 June.

The 40-year-old along with his wife and his four-year-old son was travelling in one of the two unreserved coaches of the Howrah-bound train that got derailed leading to the horrific pile-up involving the Chennai-bound Coromandel express from Shalimar (near Howrah) station and a goods train.

 What Eyewitnesses Saw

“I am lucky enough to have survived with bruises near my eyes and an injury in my chest. My wife has not stopped crying since then and my child has become unusually quiet after the tragedy. But what I saw was unforgettable," Sheikh told The Quint.

"The journey had been smooth minutes before the accident though the train coach was overcrowded like most of the unreserved compartments. I was sitting on my seat but suddenly around 645 pm there was a deafening sound and we were thrown from our seats,” he said with his son still quiet in his arms.

“We fell over each other and our coach overturned. There were screams in the compartments and the power went off only to be restored after 20 minutes. It was hot and humid and people were shouting but to my horror I found many voices becoming silent slowly. My family was rescued by locals after 30 minutes," he added.

Asu who works as a labourer in Bengaluru and lives in Krishnanagar district of West Bengal arrived in the same accident-hit train around 2 pm at Howrah station along with 1200 other passengers that were brought here in two different trains.

Sushanta Mondal, 58, who lives in the Sundarbans district of West Bengal told The Quint that he along with his family of six including two toddlers were returning from Bengaluru when the tragedy struck.

“Our S4 coach was at the end of the train but the direction of the engine was changed at Vizag and our coach came in the front close to the locomotive. We fell off with the thud sound and suffered minor injuries. But we spent the whole night inside the train and survived on water as were not given any food packets from the local administration," he said.

The two trains usually carry several people from West Bengal to southern states like Bengaluru and Chennai for quality health services cases and for work as daily labourers.

Hazra Sheikh, a migrant labourer from Malda district of West Bengal claimed that the toll is much higher than what is being told by the rail authorities.

“The reporters were not allowed to enter the accident site. Three coaches of Coromandel express were badly mangled and I fear that around 70 percent of the passengers in three coaches have died. Several hundreds of people are injured," he said,

Lucky Escape?

But some were lucky to escape the tragedy.

Tarun Kumar, 48, who lives in Nadia district of West Bengal had booked a ticket in the ill-fated Coromandel express along with his family but changed the plan after his waiting list was not confirmed.

“I have been working in a private company in Chennai for almost 2 decades and had come home due to my mother’s death on May 17. I was supposed to return yesterday but cancelled after my waiting list ticket was not confirmed. I was upset yesterday but today I am thankful to God for saving my family’s life," he told The Quint.

Schedules Go Haywire

Several hundreds of passengers who had their bookings in different trains were waiting at the Howrah railway station since there was no word from the authorities about the trains' schedule.

“We are supposed to go to Bhubaneswar but the railways have not yet confirmed if any train would be running from a diverted route. I had a ticket in another train which has already been cancelled. I have to join as a teacher in a private school tomorrow but now I don’t think it would be possible,” said Nandita Biswas, 24, a homemaker at Howrah station.

Railway officials said that around 48 trains have been cancelled and routes of other trains have been diverted due to the tragedy.

“We have managed to bring 1200 people from the accident site and the trains are halting at every station to help passengers align at the stations close to their homes. We have also arranged for the medical teams who are treated the injured and offering them with snacks. Around 48 long distance trains have been cancelled till now but their numbers are increasing,” said Vineet Gupta, Senior Deputy General Manager (SDGM), railways.

Senior State Minister Arup Roy who visited the Howrah railway station said the state government has already lined up fleet of ambulances to shift the injured to different hospitals in the city.

“We have arranged 25 ambulances, 60 taxis and 20 buses to shift the injured to various hospitals. The government has taken all the necessary measures required to deal with this kind of mammoth tragedy," Roy said.

He, however, said that it’s still not known how many victims of the train tragedy belonged from the state.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  odisha 

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