The death toll on Monday mounted to 143 in the Indore-Patna Express derailment in Kanpur rural area as rescuers wrapped up their operation with little hope of finding any survivors after overnight efforts to pull out trapped passengers from the mangled bogies.
All the 14 derailed coaches of the Patna-bound train 19321 have been removed from the tracks. Many distraught people were sifting through the luggage and other belongings piled up at the site to look for any clue about their missing loved ones.
“I am looking for my brother. Who knows what has happened to him? He may have changed his seat... we have searched everywhere,” said Ramanand Tiwari.
After seeing bodies of three of his family members, Nirmal Verma was inconsolable.
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“Whoever I tried to look for is dead. My brother, my elder sister-in-law, daughter.... I haven’t found my mother yet. I fear I will find her in the same condition,” said Verma who was to travel with his family to a wedding but couldn’t get leave from work and was supposed to join them later.
“143 bodies have been found so far, out of which 110 have been identified,” according to IG (Kanpur range) Zaki Ahmad.
While 120 bodies were pulled out till last night, some others were found as rescuers later cleared the wreckage.
Chief Medical Officer Kanpur Ramayan Prasad said 105 bodies have been handed over to family members after postmortem and free ambulances were provided.
24 bodies have been sent to Bihar, 25 to Madhya Pradesh and 56 in several districts of UP.
83 of the 202 injured passengers were admitted in hospitals of Kanpur and neighbouring Kanpur-Rural districts while rest of them have been released, Prasad said, adding 73 of them were seriously injured.
Amid scenes of tragedy, a number of good samaritans took it upon themselves to provide succour to the traumatised passengers and help out the rescuers and others on site and in hospitals by providing food and water.
Volunteers from several NGOs, RSS, Sikh organisations and even from many political outfits remained at the accident site till late in the night as rescuers struggled to pull out passengers trapped in the mangled bogies.
The volunteers visited injured victims and the distraught families in the hospitals and distributed drinking water, tea, snacks and fruits among them.
Coaches S1 and S2 had telescoped into each other and most of the casualties were feared to have been in these two compartments. S3 and S4 coaches also suffered severe damage while an AC III tier coach was also affected but casualties in it were not heavy.
Railway personnel assisted by army, NDRF and state police carried out the search and rescue operation overnight under floodlights.
Officials had said that prima facie the cause of the accident could be due to track fracture.
A high-level probe had been ordered by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, who today promised “strictest possible action” against the guilty.
Making a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha, he said a separate investigation will be held aided by latest technical and forensic analysis.
A statutory inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety has also been ordered to find the correct cause of the accident, Prabhu said.
“There shall be separate comprehensive investigation aided by latest technical and forensic analysis by an appropriate agency to look into all possible angles. Strictest possible action would be taken against the guilty,” he said expressing profound grief over the tragedy.
With several passengers feared trapped, rescue personnel had employed cold cutters to break open the compartments.
UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav has announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the kin of each of the dead in the accident, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi sanctioned Rs 2 lakh. On his part, the Railway Minister enhanced the ex-gratia grant from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3.5 lakh to the families of the dead.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced Rs 2 lakh for kin of each of the deceased.
Railways have made available the following helpline numbers—Indore-07411072, Ujjain- 07342560906, Ratlam-074121072, Orai-051621072, Jhansi- 05101072, Pokhraya-05113270239.
North Central Railway General Manager Arun Srivastava had said yesterday that traffic on Kanpur-Jhansi section will be opened in 36 hours. Four trains were cancelled and fourteen diverted yesterday after the derailment disrupted traffic on the route.