‘A sudden jerk and all came tumbling down’: Survivors recall horror
It had been months since Rukia Khatun had visited her mother in Barpeta, Assam. The daily wage labourer who works in Jaipur, set off with her seven-year-old daughter Sahida in tow on the Guwahati-Bikaner Express on Wednesday.
On Thursday, 12 coaches of the train derailed in Maynaguri region of West Bengal and Sahida went missing in the resulting pandemonium.
Rukia’s search came to a tragic end on Friday when she was told Sahida’s body was traced to the Jalpaiguri Jalpaiguri super speciality hospital.
Sahida was among the nine people killed in the accident. At least another 36 people were injured. According to the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR), there were 1,053 people onboard at the time of the accident.
While the accident shattered Rukia’s family, some like Gautam Barman, a resident of West Bengal’s Cooch Behar district, escaped with minor injuries. “I was to get down at New Cooch Behar station and I was preparing for the same. If I had died, it would have shattered my family. I have elderly parents, wife and three children,” he said.
Barman was standing near the toilet of the S6 coach preparing to deboard when the train first jerked violently. “When the first jerk came at 5 pm, passengers started falling over each other. I would have died or been seriously injured had I not gone near the bathroom,” he told reporters at Jalpaiguri district hospital.
Rishab Mishra, was travelling in the same coach as Barman.
“The train had crossed the Jalpaiguri Road station and running at full speed,” Mishra said.
“Just half an hour later, I felt a sudden jerk and most of the passengers tumbled down from the upper berths. Moments later, came a second jerk and by that time all passengers were on the floor. Immediately after, came the third jerk and everything was finished,” Mishra said.
Train driver Pradip Kumar had something similar to say. “All the signals including the home signal, starter and advanced were showing green. The train was given the go-ahead by the station master of the approaching station and we were moving ahead. But as we approached the advanced signal I felt a sudden jerk. It was a massive jerk and the engine started swaying,” said Kumar.
He applied the emergency brakes and the train came to a grinding halt. As he looked out of the window, he said he saw a cloud of dust. “I immediately climbed down and went to the rear end [of the train]. I didn’t have to go too far. The compartments were lying derailed and crumpled on top of one another like matchboxes,” he recalled.
Siddharth had boarded the train at New Jalpaiguri. “All coaches after the one in which I was derailed around 5 pm... saw many dying in front of my eyes,” he said. He boarded a special train arranged by the railways and reached Guwahati on Friday morning.
Krishna Das, a resident of Uttar Maumamari under Maynaguri police station, was out buying vegetables when he heard a big bang. “I saw train coaches derailing and coach S5 riding on S6. I rushed to the accident site and rescued four people. One of them died while I was still holding him,” he recalled.