Alighting from the special train at the Central Station in Chennai this morning that safely brought the injured and other surviving passengers of the ill-fated ‘Coromandel Express’ from Jajpur in Orissa, a group of Bangladeshi passengers had a surprising bouquet.
As the middle-aged T Islam, one of those lucky passengers of the coach S-7 who survived the tragic ordeal, with his unkempt beard set foot on platform six, and began to slowly limp his way with a suspected left knee fracture, with his other family members, he was doubly thankful.
Islam’s knee was swollen as he rolled up his ‘kurta’ to show his injury. He along with his relatives, A.L.Abdullah and AL Masum, from Jaipurhat and Naogaon districts of Bangladesh, had brought two children of their family for medical treatment at the far-away ‘Apollo Hospital’ in Chennai.
“Indian Railways bahut accha hai,” said Islam, all praise for the first-aid and food they were given at the accident-site and later by the doctors and other staff. “They gave us good service, we thank the Indian Railways,” Abdullah chipped in to add, apart from thanking God who “saved us all”.
Abdullah’s son, Farez, and Islam’s daughter, Tania Islam, to consult specialists here for a chronic disease which they stopped short of mentioning, also had a miraculous escape when the train “suddenly violently rattled and jumped the rails,” as they put it in an English-Bengali-Hindi mix. Another group of doctors treated their simple injuries on way in Visakhapatnam. “We have come here on a one-month visa,” said Abdullah.
For the 72-year-old Sister Celine Xavier, a nun with the Franciscans Mission Church in Calcutta, being spared by the tragedy was a miracle. “Don’t get panic, I am safe,” she had called her niece in Chennai, Ms. Theresa Mark Nathan, over the cell-phone to say. A visibly anxious Theresa as the train chugged in, on seeing her aged aunt, was virtually in tears.
Michel Raj of Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu’s deep South, presently serving the Army at Tinshukia in Assam, with his bandaged right-arm, soldiered the pain quietly. “I was trapped in the bathroom when the train violently jerked and braked thrice” before his S-10 compartment derailed along with others. Even as he tried to force himself out, “three passengers fell on me,” he recalled, sharing a little bit of that inexplicable horror which they left behind. In the process, Raj lost his bag, mobile and some keys.
“Thappichathu Punar Janmam, (our escape is re-birth for us),” exclaimed four technical workers from South Tamil Nadu – Ramasubbu and Alagarsamy, both of Rajapalayam, Veerasamy of Arupukkottai and Muthu of Kovilpatti-, who were in the third (unreserved) coach from the engine when disaster struck the Coromandel Express on Friday evening. Veerasamy lost his passport and they all landed “ticketless” at Chennai Central, as the bag with one of them which had all their tickets, also went missing.
While for several passengers the first succor came from the first-aid and dressing from a ‘Sai Baba Ashram and Temple’ near the accident site which they all profusely thanked, some of them like Mani Bharat, working with the Hyundai Regional Office in Calcutta, played the good Samaritan too. “Using the cell-phone light, I managed to get about 20 passengers in my compartment including women safely out,” Bharat recalled.
The Southern Railway team of doctors who went from here to attend to the injured patients coming by the special train en-route, said of the 41 cases they had examined there were only five cases of suspected fracture including one head injury, for further referral to the Railway Hospital in Chennai.