The Diva-Sawantwadi train accident on Sunday once again highlighted the fact that the disaster management coordination drills look good only on paper, but in reality, things have a long way to go before they work on the ground.
On Monday, railway officials rued the fact that things started moving only after they reached the spot. The disaster management protocols give local authorities just as much power as the railways when it comes to rescue and relief during such disasters.
The officials pointed out to the fact that for several hours after the accident, a lone 70-ton heavy duty road crane was being used to lift the capsized coaches and the toppled locomotive. "The area around the accident site has many such 70-ton road cranes thanks to various goods sidings at Thal, Kalamboli etc. The administration could have called in more road cranes," said one official. Some smaller Hudra cranes were also brought in.
The real work of removing the coaches and the locomotive started only late Sunday evening when two 140-ton railway cranes made their way from Kurla and Verna on Konkan Railway to the accident site.
These cranes came in by around 6.45pm but could not get close to the spot because of the absence of tracks which were uprooted in the accident. Temporary tracks were then laid by the railway contract workers who were ferried in by lorries from Panvel. The tracks were completed by 8.45pm and then the cranes came closer to the site and began lifting the locomotive and coaches. Work of clearing the coaches out of the way was completed by around 12 midnight, said officials.
By 4.30am on Monday, the track was cleared for traffic and the first goods train passed over the route by around 5.30am.
"What is ideally required is that officials of various agencies should sit and make a thorough audit of the post-accident rescue and relief — the way it is done when there is a mock drill. This will help all agencies to prepare a check-list of things that were done, should have been done or avoided etc. This should be the reference point for the future," said a senior Central Railway official.