At least 21 people were killed and 161 injured when a passenger train derailed on the Konkan Railway (KR) route in Maharashtra's Raigad district on Sunday morning.
Local railway officials suspect that the cause of the accident may have been the sudden application of brakes by driver, whose whereabouts are unknown.
Following the mishap, services on the KR route were suspended and trains were diverted or terminated. Rescue operations were completed around 7pm. Meanwhile, Narendra Patil, chief PRO, Central Railway (CR), was not available for comment as his mobile phone was switched off.
The accident occurred just outside a tunnel near Nidi village, when the engine and four out of 20 bogies of the Diwa-Sawantwadi passenger train derailed around 9.30am between Nagothane and Roha railway stations, about 120km from Mumbai. The passenger train was going to Sawantwadi from Diva.
Most of the victims were locals, who were visiting Roha for a weekly market.
Sunil Tatkare, guardian minister of Raigad, was the first to reach the accident site. He reached the spot around 11.30am and spent around two hours there. “I have asked railway officials and the local administration to expedite the rescue operation,” said Tatkare. He also asked railway officials to disburse immediate relief funds to the victims. Home minister RR Patil reached at the spot around 2.30pm and supervised the rescue operation.
According to Nagothane locals, the railway rescue team reached around noon while the locals had already started to free the trapped passengers. “The local police officers reached the site and started the operation,” said Kazim Pansare, a local.
According to the Raigad police control room, the rescue operation started late. In the Primary Health Centre at Nagothane, 39 persons were brought, out of which 12 were dead and 12 were referred to Sion Hospital. “The condition of 6 patients is critical as they have multiple fractures,” said Dr GG Wadje, Medical Officer of PHC Nagothane. Eight of the injured were sent to Alibaug Hospital, out of which one died.
The condition was almost similar in Roha Hospital, where around 18 dead bodies were brought and 61 injured were admitted. Locals said that many injured went home without medical aid as the medical services were late in their arrival. However, Nagothane's local doctors rushed to the local hospital to quickly deliver medical aide to the victims.
Railways ordered an inquiry and railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge announced an ex-gratia of Rs2 lakh for those killed in the accident, Rs50,000 for the grievously hurt and Rs10,000 for passengers who suffered minor injuries.
Officials said Chetan Bakshi, commissioner, Railway Safety, would conduct the inquiry into the accident. Vaishali Patange, chief PRO, KR, said that most of the trains had been either cancelled, terminated or diverted after the accident. “KR officials rushed to the spot to assist CR in relief and restoration work. One accident relief medical van and one accident relief train have been dispatched to the site by KR. All possible assistance, as requested by CR, is being extended for quick relief and early restoration,” said Patange.
She added that passengers, who had a valid train ticket for the cancelled/diverted/short terminated trains, were allowed to travel by bus towards Mumbai. The passengers would not be required to pay for the bus journey, railway authorities said.
Railways has also started two helplines: Thane — 022-25334840 and Panvel — 022-27468 and passengers can call on 02352- 228176/228951/228954.