Kanpur villagers rescue train accident survivors, some rob them
Villagers from nearby areas were the first to reach the scene of Sunday’s deadly train accident in Pukhrayan as dazed survivors struggled to get out of mangled coaches and look for missing family members.
The survivors of India’s worst train accident in six years that killed over 142 people saw generosity and opportunism in equal measure.
“While some of the villagers rescued passengers from the derailed and damaged coaches, others snatched valuables from the injured,” said Shyamlal Singh, who was on board the Indore-Patna Express that derailed early Sunday morning.
Ruby Gupta, a 20-year-old from Mau in Uttar Pradesh, couldn’t find her clothes or jewellery as she frantically looked for her father. She broke an arm and her sisters and brothers were hospitalised with severe injuries. The family was on way to Mau for her December 1 wedding.
“Anti-social elements active after the accident might have escaped with her belongings,” a police officer said.
A villager, on the other hand, took three children whose parents were missing to the Pukhrayan health centre for medical aide. He left the children at the hospital and returned to the accident site to help in rescue effort.
A little after he left, a group of villagers turned up at the health centre. They said they knew the family and wanted to take the children with them. Hospital staff spoke to the children but they could not identify the villagers, who fled after police were alerted.
“The children are 10, 5 and 2 years old. I have instructed the staff that they be sent home only after proper identification of family members,” director-general of health Sunil Kumar Srivastava said.
As hospitals in Pukhrayan and nearby towns were overwhelmed, several non-government organisations, guest houses and dharamshlas in the area had taken in the injured, he said. Doctors visited them and shifted the seriously injured to the Kanpur medical college and other government facilities.
Srivastava said a cold storage owner had offered to store unidentified bodies for three days. “We will preserve the DNA sample of the dead passengers whose relatives do not turn up,” he said.
Several doctors, with private practice, lent a hand to doctors in government hospitals. Some even opened the doors of their nursing homes and arranged blood donors for those in need of surgery, a health official said.
Fourteen coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed on Sunday morning in Pukhrayan in Kanpur Dehat district of Uttar Pradesh, killing 129 people and injuring more than 200. The train was on way to Patna in Bihar from Indore in Madhya Pradesh.
A probe has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident. Officials suspect a fracture, or a crack in the tracks, could have led to the derailment.
The world’s fourth largest train system, the Indian Railways desperately needs to upgrade its creaking British-era infrastructure as it struggles to cope with rising traffic.