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Survivors of rail tragedy return home

mumbai Updated: May 30, 2010 01:04 IST
Sujit Mahamulkar
Sujit Mahamulkar
Hindustan Times
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Malad resident Ashish Jain cannot believe he is in Mumbai, alive.

“It is only my luck,” said Jain, after alighting at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus at Kurla on Saturday evening. Jain was on the Howrah-Mumbai Jnaneshwari Express that derailed in West Midnapore district on Friday following suspected sabotage by Maoists.

Jain, who returned to Mumbai on Saturday, was saved by sheer providence. “I had a reservation for the compartment that got derailed and collided [with a good train]. At the last moment, I got a seat in the air-conditioned coach and I shifted,” Jain said.

Lokmanya Tilak Terminus was crowded from late evening as anxious relatives, railway staff, an 80-member strong police force and journalists waited for the train carrying survivors of the accident to arrive. At least 120 people were killed when the train jumped off the tracks and collided with an oncoming goods train.

On Saturday, when the train carrying the survivors arrived at Kurla at 9.10 pm, there was chaos with relatives rushing to receive their loved ones. About 450 families got out of the train, most of them survivors of the worst Maoist attack on civilians ever. Vinayak Pani, a medical officer from Rourkela, was also lucky.

“I was in the same couch that turned turtle,” Pani said. “It was late in the night when I heard a huge thud and suddenly all the glass panes broke and there was a black out. We heard a lot of movement but did not know what it was. We stayed put until the jawans came in an got us out.”

While relieved relatives led their loved ones away, for some the wait did not end. Dhaval, the teenage son of passengers Hamir and Asha Sawaliwala, was spotted showing his parents’ photos on his cell phone and asking survivors if they had seen them.

On Friday, the family had heard that Asha was injured but Hamir was missing. A passenger told Dhaval that he had seen his parents being taken away in an ambulance at Kharagpur.

Diksha Upadhyay, another passenger, arrived to an emotional welcome from her son and husband. "My husband didn't know about the accident until I called him yesterday and told him," an overwhelmed Diksha said.

Shabana Shaikh, who was stuck in a damaged bogey and could be brought out only after the steel body was cut, could not control her emotions.

She started crying aloud as soon as she alighted from the train and cursed the government and Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee.

“Mamata Banerjee is the reason all this is happening,” Shaikh said. “She has a clear nexus with the Maoists and she should be punished for what happened to us.”