120 killed as In­dian train de­rails

Amir sends con­do­lences

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

PUKHRAYAN, In­dia: Emer­gency work­ers raced to find any more sur­vivors in the man­gled wreck­age of an In­dian train that de­railed yes­ter­day, killing at least 120 peo­ple, in the worst dis­as­ter to hit the coun­try’s age­ing rail net­work in re­cent years. Shocked pas­sen­gers re­called be­ing jolted out of their early morn­ing slum­ber by a vi­o­lent thud as 14 car­riages leapt from the tracks in a re­mote area near Kan­pur city in Ut­tar Pradesh state.

HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah yes­ter­day sent a con­do­lence ca­ble to In­dian Pres­i­dent Pranab Mukherjee, voic­ing sin­cere and heart­felt con­do­lences over the vic­tims of the ac­ci­dent and wished quick re­cov­ery to the in­jured. HH the Deputy Amir and Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and HH the Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Ha­mad Al-Sabah sent sim­i­lar ca­bles of con­do­lences.

Sur­vivors also told of their des­per­ate search for loved-ones on the train, which was car­ry­ing at least one wed­ding party with the mar­riage sea­son in In­dia in full swing. “My 12-year-old daugh­ter is miss­ing, I have been look­ing for her for hours,” a sur­vivor told AFP at the ac­ci­dent site, break­ing into un­con­trol­lable sobs. “My wife has re­ceived se­ri­ous head in­juries and I have lost all my be­long­ings. I am feel­ing so help­less, my whole world has turned up­side down.”

Hun­dreds of army and po­lice have been de­ployed at the scene, where res­cue work­ers used metal cut­ters to slice through se­verely man­gled coaches to try to get to sur­vivors. Dis­as­ter re­sponse teams also set up spe­cial lights to en­sure res­cue work was not ham­pered in the night. “We have been able to pull out 24 peo­ple so far, out of which five were found to be alive,” said Bri­gadier A Ch­hib­bar, who is lead­ing the army’s res­cue op­er­a­tions. “We will carry on day and night, till there is any inkling of even a sin­gle per­son be­ing pulled alive.”

Po­lice said 120 peo­ple had been killed and at least 200 oth­ers were un­der­go­ing treat­ment in nearby hospi­tals, which were placed on high alert af­ter the early morn­ing dis­as­ter. “The death toll has reached 120. At least 200 oth­ers are in­jured,” Zaki Ah­mad, po­lice in­spec­tor gen­eral of Kan­pur zone, told AFP. The ac­ci­dent was the worst since 2010 when a pas­sen­ger train crashed into a freight train in the east­ern state of West Ben­gal, killing 146 and in­jur­ing over 200. Au­thor­i­ties have launched an of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ac­ci­dent, which ju­nior rail­ways min­is­ter Manoj Sinha said may have been caused by dam­age to the tracks.

In­dia’s rail­way net­work, one of the world’s largest, is still the main form of long-dis­tance travel in the vast coun­try, but it is poorly funded and deadly ac­ci­dents oc­cur rel­a­tively fre­quently. A 2012 gov­ern­ment re­port said al­most 15,000 peo­ple were killed ev­ery year on In­dia’s rail­ways, de­scrib­ing the deaths as an an­nual “mas­sacre”. Ni­tika Trivedi, a stu­dent who boarded the train with her fam­ily, said im­ages of the vic­tims’ bod­ies would long haunt her. “I had never seen any­thing like this in my life be­fore. I am shaken to the core,” she said.

“Sud­denly I could feel that the car­riage was over­turn­ing. I im­me­di­ately held the metal rod near the bath­room door,” said Faizal Khan, who was trav­el­ling with his wife and two chil­dren, all of whom sur­vived the ac­ci­dent. An­other sur­vivor, Ra­jdeep Tan­war, said. “I can see bod­ies ly­ing near the tracks, every­one is in a state of shock. There is no wa­ter or food for us.”

Anx­ious rel­a­tives thronged the sta­tion in In­dore in cen­tral In­dia where the train orig­i­nated, many clutch­ing pic­tures of their loved ones. Rail­way of­fi­cials said spe­cial trains and buses had been de­ployed for stranded trav­ellers. “We are also try­ing to clear the tracks and com­plete the restora­tion work as quickly as pos­si­ble, ”Vi­jay Ku­mar, a spokesman for north-cen­tral rail­ways, told AFP. Lo­cal media re­ports said the train was packed with fam­i­lies, some of them trav­el­ling home for wed­dings. Bride-to-be Ruby Gupta, who sur­vived the ac­ci­dent with a frac­tured arm, was des­per­ately search­ing for her fa­ther. “I have been look­ing ev­ery­where for him,” she told the Press Trust of In­dia.

In 2014 an express train ploughed into a sta­tion­ary freight train, also in Ut­tar Pradesh, killing 26 peo­ple. And last year 27 peo­ple died when two trains de­railed in Mad­hya Pradesh state dur­ing heavy rain. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s gov­ern­ment has pledged to in­vest $137 bil­lion over five years to mod­ern­ize the crum­bling rail­ways, mak­ing them safer, faster and more ef­fi­cient. Modi, who started out sell­ing tea out­side a train sta­tion, tweeted yes­ter­day that he was “an­guished beyond words” by the loss of life in the lat­est ac­ci­dent.

Suresh Prabhu, In­dia’s rail­ways min­is­ter, said in a tweet that the gov­ern­ment would in­ves­ti­gate the causes of the de­rail­ment and promised ac­count­abil­ity with the “strictest pos­si­ble ac­tion”, as well as com­pen­sa­tion for the af­fected pas­sen­gers. The Krem­lin said Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin had con­tacted Modi and “passed on words of sym­pa­thy and sup­port to the rel­a­tives and loved ones of the dead and wished a fast re­cov­ery of the in­jured.”

PUKHRAYAN, In­dia: Res­cue work­ers search for sur­vivors in the wreck­age of a train that de­railed in Kan­pur dis­trict yes­ter­day. — AFP

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