At least 66 persons, most of them believed to be Pakistan nationals were burnt to death and about 13 were injured when two bogies of the Pakistan bound Attari Express caught fire near Panipath late last night following twin explosions caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
The two unreserved coaches were completely burnt from inside, leaving behind charred and half burnt bodies of the passengers which were removed by the local villagers and jawans of Railway Protection Force (RPF) and local police after much struggle and effort.
"It was awful. Burnt and half burnt bodies of the passengers were all over in the coaches. In one of the coaches, the scene was even more grisly with a pile of charred and half burnt bodies stacked in one corner. It seems that while trying to save themselves the passengers took cover in one corner of the bogey,'' said RPF Assistant Sub-Inspector, Jai Narain who took out the bodies from the burnt coaches.
Major Terror Attacks
July 2006: Coordinated bombings on Mumbai commuter trains kill more than 200 people and injure hundreds more. Police blame a Pakistan-based militant group, as well as the Students' Islamic Movement of India.
March 2006: Twin bombings at a train station and a temple in the Hindu holy city of Varanasi kill 20 people. Kashmiri terrorists are blamed.
October 2005: Three bombs placed in busy New Delhi markets a day before a major Hindu festival kill 62 people and wound hundreds. India blames Kashmir terrorists.
August 2003: Two taxis packed with explosives blow up outside a Mumbai tourist attraction and a busy market, killing 52 and wounding more than 100.
March 2003: A bomb explodes on a passenger train in Mumbai, killing 10 people. The attack is blamed on Islamic militants.
September 2002: Terrorists attack a Hindu temple in the western state of Gujarat. Thirty-three people, including two attackers, die. Police blame Indian Muslims recruited by Kashmiri terrorists.
December 2001: Islamic militants attack India's Parliament in New Delhi, leaving 14 people, including several gunmen, dead. India blames Pakistan, which denies involvement.
1993: Muslim underworld figures tied to Pakistani militants allegedly carry out a series of bombings that strike Mumbai's stock exchange along with trains, hotels and gas stations in the city, killing 257 people and wounding more than 1,100.
Narain said that his shoes and clothes were completely soiled with the fluids oozing out of the half burnt bodies of passengers. " It was difficult to walk inside these coaches as there disjointed and burnt limbs were everywhere. The stench was dreadful. But thanks to local villagers who helped us out in getting the bodies out," he said.
Preliminary investigations have revealed that the fire broke out at about 11.53 pm yesterday after the two general compartments which were teeming with passengers were rocked by the blasts just as the train touched the level crossing number 47 near the Dewana railway station near Panipat.
Railway personnel Pawan Kumar who was manning this level crossing was the first ones to hear the explosion. He told HT : "It was about 11.52 when the I showed the signal lantern to the Attari Express which was coming in very fast, probably at over 100 kilometers an hour. Just as reached near the home signal, I could hear two loud explosions from the coaches near the Guards van at the rear.''
Petrified on hearing the blasts, Pawan thankfully had the sensibility of sounding the assistant station master immediately. Assistant Station Master, Vinod Kumar Gupta who could initially see smoke coming out of one compartment maintained that only one coach had caught fire initially. "The train was moving at such a high speed that it was hard to judge what actually happened. I immediately asked the gateman at the level crossing number 50 to put down the red signal and asked the engine driver to use the vacuum brakes,'' he said.
Babu Lal Meena, a Railways pointsman who was eyewitness to the entire incident said that he saw flames coming out of the compartments while he was exchanging the signals. "It was horrific and I just felt helpless. Imagine the plight of the passengers who were inside. They could do nothing but submit themselves to their fate,'' he said.
Railway personnel said that what made the matter worse was that none of the coaches which caught fire were interconnected and were stuffed with passengers and luggage. "Had these compartments been interconnected, perhaps some of the lives could have been saved,'' said an official.
While twelve persons injured in the blast have been shifted to Delhi's Safdarjung hospital, a Multan resident Kamaruddin who sustained five per cent burns has been admitted to Panipat Civil Hospital. Those referred to Delhi are : Nine year old Shammi, a resident of Karachi; 42-year old Rana Shuakat Ali, his wife Ruksana , their one year old daughter, Aksha (all Pakistan nationals), 11-year old Nadeem from Mirpur Khas in Pakistan, 25 year old Mohammad Shakil from Pakistan, Mohammad Zakir, a resident of Bijnaur in Uttar Pradesh and a RPF head constable Tarsem.