Toll at 9, Vaishnaw hints at mechanical failure as cause
Five people were killed and at least 36 were injured after 12 coaches of the Guwahati-Bikaner Express derailed on Thursday evening. Four more bodies were recovered hours later
The toll in the Bikaner-Guwahati Express train accident in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri rose to nine on Friday, with Union minister Ashwini Vaishnaw saying that a mechanical failure in the locomotive appeared to have caused the accident.
“Preliminary probe suggested that the issue was with the locomotive’s equipment and not with speed restrictions or tracks. There will be marks on the equipment. Only after dismantling it and studying those marks, the actual reason behind the accident can be ascertained,” Vaishnaw, who inspected the accident site, told reporters.
“The root cause (behind the accident) will soon come out. An inquiry into the unfortunate incident is underway. We pray for the departed souls and wish for a speedy recovery of the injured. Talks are on with the families regarding the distribution of ex-gratia,” he added.
Five people were killed and at least 36 were injured after 12 coaches of the Guwahati-Bikaner Express derailed on Thursday evening. Four more bodies were recovered hours later.
While 23 passengers were undergoing treatment at a super specialty hospital in Jalpaiguri, six were admitted at the North Bengal Medical College and seven at Maynaguri Rural Hospital, a spokesperson of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) said.
The condition of at least 10 passengers is said to be critical.
“The fault could have been anywhere, from the train’s traction motor to the tracks. It will be ascertained only after a proper enquiry. An enquiry by the commissioner of railway safety is underway,” a senior railway official said, seeking anonymity.
The train was bound for Guwahati and the accident took place in Maynaguri region around 5 pm, the NFR had earlier said in a statement, adding that 1,053 passengers were on board at the time.
Recounting the incident, Pradip Kumar, the driver, said: “All the signals including the home signal, starter and advanced were showing green. The train was given a 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.”
Besides Vaishnaw, Rajasthan power minister Bhanwar Singh Bhati and disaster management and relief minister Govind Ram Meghwal arrived in north Bengal and visited some of the injured passengers in Siliguri.
Senior railway officials said while rescue operations were completed by the early hours of Friday, the restoration work by removing the derailed compartments and repairing the tracks were underway.
As many as 10 trains, mostly intercity and DEMU (local) trains were cancelled along the affected route on Friday while a couple of others were short terminated or short originated. The routes of 10 other long-distance trains were diverted, the railways said.
“Special trains and buses were arranged so that the remaining passengers could reach their destinations,” Moumita Godara Basu, Jalpaiguri district magistrate said.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha MP and Bharatiya Janata Party leader demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the accident.