The death toll in Tuesday’s train derailments in Madhya Pradesh reached 34 but it could cross 50 as rescuers and relatives feared flash floods that caused the fatal accidents washed away many passengers on board the two packed trains.
The Kamayani Express on its way to Varanasi from Mumbai derailed shortly before midnight on Tuesday near Harda town while the Janata Express travelling in the opposite direction to Mumbai from Patna slid off the tracks soon after. The trains derailed after flash floods set off by torrential rains weakened tracks over the swollen Kala Machak river.
Officials said three more bodies — including two women — were fished out from Kala Machak on Thursday but the toll could be much higher as more than a dozen families reached Harda and nearby towns looking for missing relatives who were travelling in the two trains.
These families reported 17 missing passengers but when they were shown photos of a dozen unidentified bodies, the identity of only two could be ascertained.
“This indicates 15 missing people might add to the list of 31 declared dead so far,” an official said.
The administration directed officials to look for bodies that might have washed away 15-20km downstream after the National Disaster Response Force team stopped their rescue efforts on Thursday.
Family members recounted their frustration after repeated rounds of hospitals, police stations and Harda railway station for news about their missing loved ones.
A truck driver from Uttar Pradesh who survived the crash said he won’t leave Harda till he found his 17-year-old adopted son. “I can’t forget that moment near the door of the coach after the accident when I was holding his hand tightly and then in a flash he was gone,” said Krishna, who had adopted his brother’s son after four daughters of his own.