It was 2.30am and CM Joseph aka Naomi was fast asleep in the air-conditioned B1 coach of the Howrah-Dehradun Express when terrified wails rent the quiet. Sitting up in her bunk the 21-year-old researcher from Australia could see nothing but smoke all around. She was about to look for her friends and co-travellers — MS Rose aka Shiopi, Proywyn Smith and Kati Scanlan—research students from Australia when she felt herself being pushed out of the bogey.
"I was disoriented and nervous. I could not understand whether I was in India or Australia. I regained my senses only when I was taken to a hospital," Naomi said.
As it turned out, Proywyn and Shiopi, both aged 21, also managed to survive, but Scanlan, 21, was charred to death.
While railway authorities are yet to break the news of Scanlan's death to her friends, Annu Thakur is struggling to come to terms with the death of her daughter. Annu was on her way to Lucknow with Archita, 4, to attend a cousin's wedding.Around 2:20am, Annu woke up to go to the toilet. When she came out not only could she smell something, but all the lights in the B1 coach were off as well. She immediately raised an alarm and woke up her co-passengers. But when she tried to return to her seat to fetch Archita the fire had already spread. Co-passengers pulled back a hysterical Annu from rushing into the burning coach.
"God cannot be cruel to me as I have done no harm to others," Annu lamented hours later, when her daughter's charred body was retrieved from the coach by firemen.