Thursday, October 22, 2009

22 killed in train smash near Mathura
K. Balchand
Mewar Express bears the brunt, Goa Express drivers suspended

RESCUE EFFORT: Army and police personnel shifting a woman injured in the accident involving the Goa Express and the Mewar Express near Mathura on Wednesday. (Right) Twelve-year-old Ashish Sharma being rescued from one of the compartments. His mother died in the accident.
MATHURA/NEW DELHI: At least 22 persons were killed and 26 injured when the Goa Express rammed the Mewar Express at Banjana on the Mathura-Vrindavan section of the Northern Railway in Uttar Pradesh early on Wednesday.
Even as the Udaipur-Nizamuddin Mewar Express resumed its journey after an eight-minute halt following chain pulling, the Goa Express, also bound for Nizamuddin from Vasco Da Gama, rammed it from behind with full force. In the fateful 15 minutes, either the Goa Express did not heed the signal at Banjana or the signal itself failed, it is said. (A Lucknow report, quoting Agra divisional manager R.K. Tripathi, said the Goa Express driver missed the signal.)
The rear coach of the Mewar Express bore the brunt of the collision. Two coaches went off the rails. The casualties occurred mostly aboard the Mewar Express, with 19 passengers and guard S.K. Puri killed. In the other train, two persons were killed in the pantry car. It was not immediately known whether they were railway staff or passengers.
Several of the injured succumbed to their injuries in hospital. The condition of 13 others was said to be serious. Most of the injured have since been shifted to Delhi.
The rescue operations, launched by locals, gained momentum with the arrival of police. The Army unit at Mathura — comprising electrical and mechanical engineers and a medical corps — was involved in the rescue work along with railway teams which arrived from Agra and Delhi.
After the two damaged bogies were detached, the Mewar Express reached Delhi at 12.45 p.m. Arrangements were made to transport passengers of the Goa Express to either Mathura or Delhi.
The rail lines were restored by 2 p.m. and railway authorities claimed that traffic was normal.
Goa Express driver R.K. Chaturvedi and assistant driver Laxmi Kant were placed under suspension and taken off duty, pending completion of an enquiry to be held by P.K. Vajpayee, Commissioner of Railway Safety, North Eastern Circle (Civil Aviation Department), Lucknow.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who ordered the enquiry, expressed her condolences to the bereaved. She announced an ex gratia of Rs. 5 lakh to the families of each of the deceased, Rs. 1 lakh each to the critically injured, and Rs.10,000 to those with simple injuries.
Minister of State for Railways E. Ahamed supervised the rescue operations.
Chain pulling to blame?
Raktima Bose reports from Kolkata:
Speaking to journalists in Kolkata, Ms. Banerjee said a report that chain pulling might have caused the accident was being investigated..
“I have received the prima facie report. There is a mention of an incident of chainpulling but whether that caused the accident or not cannot be said right now.” A safety committee meeting would be held on Thursday.
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Mamata to seek CBI enquiry

First Published : 22 Oct 2009 11:05:00 AM IST

MATHURA: With conflicting reports on the cause of the train accident near here, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee has decided to go for a CBI enquiry into the mishap.
"Realising the gravity of the accident, I have decided that it is better to go for a CBI probe," Bannerjee told reporters last night during a visit to the site of the accident involving Goa Samparkranti Express and Mewar Express.
Twenty-two people were killed and as many injured in the accident yesterday.
She said, "Many questions have cropped up. Somebody is saying that chain-pulling was the reason for the accident and others say there was a problem in the signal. It may be a case of criminal offence also. So, I have decided that we must hand over the case to CBI."
The Railway Minister said if any criminal offence has been committed by anyone, there has to be stringent action against them and "hence we will hand over the case to the CBI".
"We are for examining all issues. It was a very bad incident. We want to ensure punishment to all the guilty," Banerjee said.
Police has registered a case against unnamed persons after it emerged that the Mewar Express had come to a sudden halt because of alleged chain-pulling before it was hit from behind by the Goa Express.
Banerjee said the Railway Ministry would bear all the expenses for the treatment of the injured.
She thanked the Army, local police and the villagers for extending help to the accident victims.
She said the Committee on Railway Safety will meet within 15 days and discuss all issues related to safety. "We will do whatever is possible to ensure safety."
She visited the Maheswari Hospital in Mathura where the injured were undergoing treatment.


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