KHATAULI, UTTAR PRADESH: As investigations begin into Saturday’s train tragedy in Uttar Pradesh that killed 20 people and injured over 90, a senior railway official today said that maintenance work was being carried out on the track which could have caused the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express to derail. Thirteen coaches of the high-speed train went off the tracks around 5:45 pm in Khatauli in Muzaffarnagar district; two crashed into a residential area, ramming a house and a college. Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu, who has ordered an inquiry into the incident, said he had asked authorities “to fix responsibility on prima facie evidence by end of day”.
Here are the latest developments in this big story:
- “When we did a site inspection, we saw some equipment of the railways used for track repair present there,” Mohammed Jamshed, Member (Traffic), Railway Board, said today, adding that authorities would look into possible sabatoge and “if all precautions were taken” while the repair work was being conducted.
- An audio clip of an unverified telephonic conversation, apparently between two railway employees, that hints at “negligence” as cause of the accident will also be probed, he added.
- Sources in the engineering division of the Railways claim that they had warned the Khatauli station authorities of repair work being carried out on the tracks. They also claim that they had asked for movement of trains to not be allowed on the stretch for 20 minutes till the tracks were restored.
- “We had no knowledge of technical problems,” Rajinder Singh, Station Superintendent, Khatauli told NDTV today, saying they were unaware of maintenance work being carried out on the tracks.
- Locals claim human error may have led to the tragedy. Jagat Ram, one of the residents of the house that was damaged when the train crashed into it, had earlier told NDTV that parts of the rail track in the area were being repaired for the last two days. Locals suspect that the driver of the Utkal Express was not informed about the repair work.
- A first information report (FIR) has been filed for causing death by negligence, mischief, and destruction of railway property.
- The train had left Puri in Odisha on Friday evening and was scheduled to arrive in Haridwar in Uttarakhand on Sunday. “It was running at a speed of about 100 kmph when the accident took place,” a top Railways official RN Singh said. Six of the derailed coaches were damaged severely.
- Rescuers from the National Disaster Response Force or NDRF and various divisions of the police worked with gas cutters and cranes to find survivors from the badly-mangled coaches. Rescue operations ended in the early hours today.
- Two heavy-duty 140-tonne cranes were pressed into service today by the Railways to clear the tracks. The route is expected to be cleared and traffic is likely to be restored this evening, according to Railways officials.
- The Railways has announced a compensation of Rs. 3.5 lakh for the family of those killed, Rs. 50,000 for those seriously injured and Rs. 25,000 for people with minor injuries. State governments of Odisha and Uttar Pradesh have also announced compensation for the victims.