Three passengers from Punjab, including a couple, were among the four killed while five others from the state sustained injuries when the Delhi-Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express derailed on Wednesday morning at around 2.15 am near Chhapra in Bihar.
As per the information, a railway employee in the office of Divisional Railway Manager, Ferozepur -- Pawan Dhawan (50) along with his family, including wife Neelam (47), son Nishant (15) daughter Mauli (10) and his friend and colleague Sanjeev Beri, his wife Bharti (45), son Ashu (22) and daughter Aashnaa (18) were going to Darjeeling on summer vacations.
“On Monday night, both the families had boarded Punjab Mail from Ferozepur and later, they took Rajdhani Express from Delhi to reach their destination. However, in the ill-fated accident on Wednesday morning, Pawan, Neelam and Bharti lost their lives on the spot while others sustained injuries,” informed Rajesh Dhawan, brother of Pawan.
Meanwhile, according to reports, in all 23 people have been injured, 13 of them seriously, when 12 coaches of the Rajdhani Express train derailed near the Golden Ganj station near Chhapra town.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi quickly condoled the deaths and wished the injured speedy recovery. The Prime Minister's Office said he was in touch with Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda, who rushed to the accident site.
Gowda told the media in Patna that it was too early to comment on the cause of the accident. He said he would do that only after he meets railway and district officials.
He added that relief and rescue operations were on in full swing.
An ex-gratia payment of Rs.2 lakh for the families of the killed, Rs.1 lakh for the severely injured, and Rs.20,000 for those who received minor injuries was announced by the railway ministry.
Superintendent of Police Sudhir Kumar said the injured were warded in hospitals in Chhapra and Patna.
After Rajiv Pratap Rudy, the BJP MP from Chhapra, referred to Maoist activity in the region, Sudhir Kumar denied that sabotage or Maoists might be responsible for the derailment.
"It is an accident and the result of a technical fault," he said in Saran.
"About 500 metres of railway track was found uprooted but there was no evidence of an explosion," he said. And no explosives were found from the accident site.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh also said that it was too early to blame the Maoists.
Referring to "Maoist threats", Rudy earlier said: "I do not want to go into the merits of the case because it looks like sabotage... from what I understand after looking at the tracks.
"I spoke to the prime minister and the home minister and have briefed them about the incident. Both of them are concerned."
Spokesman Arvind Kumar Razak of East Central Railway said the cause of the derailment was not known.
Train traffic on the route, which links eastern India with the northeast, has been paralysed, he added.
Bihar Chief Minister Manjhi said here: "There is no Maoist connection." He announced a compensation of Rs.50,000 to families of the four people killed.
Former chief minister Nitish Kumar added: "It is too early to say that Maoists are involved... I have been a railway minister. We cannot say such things until there is an investigation."
The Bihar government ordered an inquiry into the accident.
Meanwhile, former railway minister and RJD leader Lalu Prasad blamed negligence for the disaster. "The railways should accept responsibility for the accident." Helpline numbers: Lucknow: 9794830976, Varanasi: 0542-2503814, 0542-2226778, 0542-2224742, New Delhi: 011-23342954, Rly. 030-22280, SS/Chhapra Kachehari: 0152-243409, Hajipur: 06224-272230, Muzffarpur Jn: 0621-2213034 (Rly.), Barauni: 06279-65210, Samastipur: 06274-222613, 025-32131 (Rly.), Gazipur city: 0548-2223435, 09794843922, Ballia: 05498-223024, 09794843923, Chhapra: 06152-243409, 06152-237807, 09771443941, Bareli: 3101-32222 (Rly.), 2558161, 2558162 (P&T)