The Dhamara station on the Saharsa-Mansi stretch in Bihar's Khagaria district does not normally cater to many passengers, save for this time of the year. Monday, the last somvari of the auspicious month of sawan, began with a steady stream of devotees heading to the Katyayani temple nearby.
The only way for them is to cross the tracks since the small station has no foot over-bridge.
"No one expected it to be this dangerous since trains usually slow down or come to a halt whenever festivities are on. This time, however, the Patna-bound Rajyarani Express barrelled down at over 80kms an hour, catching everybody by surprise and leaving no time for anyone to get out of its way", said Ramnaresh, whose kin Madhuri Mahato was among the injured.
The train had ploughed through the crowd, leaving a wake of blood, severed limbs and mangled bodies. Those who escaped were wailing and in a state of panic.
"I saw three women of my village being flung. Those of us standing nearby had blood splattered all over us,” said a traumatic eyewitness, Sangeeta. She said many women fainted on seeing the gory spectacle.
Locals, apparently blinded by their anger, went on an arson spree, delaying help that the administration had despatched. The critical time lost led to more deaths.
For five hours, the administration’s efforts to send a relief train was baulked by human walls, carrying fire torches and burning all that came in its way. Help was thus delayed-the first patients reaching the hospital only seven hours later. Six died on way to Khagaria, three on their way to hospitals in Saharsa.
Khagaria district magistrate, Syed Parwez Alam, who was among the first to reach the tragedy site, braving the tensions and brick batting said, "It was shocking. Bodies lay strewn around. Blood was splattered along the tracks".
He said some of the injured were admitted to Chautham primary health centres while specialists were rushed to hospitals around from Khagaria to help in surgical procedures.
We have to hand over the bodies at the earliest to the families. Photographs of all victims have been taken,” said Samastipur DRM Arun Malik, who was among the first railway officials to reach the spot.
“The loco pilot and the assistant loco pilot are both safe. However, they sustained serious injuries in the thrashing by the angry mob and have been admitted to Mansi railway hospital and PMCH in Patna,” he added.