As relief and rescue operations are in full swing, the death toll in the railway accident at Penukonda involving the Hubli-Bangalore Hampi Express has gone up to 22 while an estimated 76 persons sustained injuries.
The Bangalore-bound Hampi Express collided against a stationary goods train at the railway station at around 3.15 hrs in the wee hours of Tuesday when most of the passengers were asleep.
The impact of the collision was so severe that the bogie immediately behind the engine caught fire while the second, third and fourth bogies derailed. The driver and co-driver of the engine died instantaneously in the cabin. Gory scenes of severed limbs and burnt bodies were witnessed at the accident site.
Speaking to reporters after visiting the accident site, Andhra Pradesh Minister for Revenue N Raghuveera Reddy, put the official death toll at 16 but did not rule out the possibility of more bodies being found in the first compartment. He was accompanied by Congress MPs K. Chiranjeevi and Anantha Venkatarami Reddy.
Padmanabham, a passenger hailing from Koppal district of Karnataka, said “I was jolted by the impact of the collision. I could see people flung across the aisle due to the force, he said. His close relative Satyanarayana was burnt alive in the accident.
Both of them were travelling in the ill-fated coach right behind the engine which caught fire. While Padmanabham and two others were lucky to escape with their lives, many could not come out as they were in a state of shock and could not move fast enough.
After the accident, the first coach was in flames. Kolar Krishna, Penukonda Deputy Superintendent of Police, who received the first call, was at the spot within minutes with his men after informing the fire department. They immediately reached the spot and brought the fire under control. But the damage was done by then as 13 persons were either burnt to death or suffocated due to the smoke.
Mr. Krishna said most of the dead were travelling in the first and second coaches. Railway and police personnel transported the passengers who were unscathed in eight buses to Bangalore.
Mr Mani, the Divisional Railway Manager of the South Western railway headquartered at Bangalore said that incident might have been a result of a combination of mistakes by the signalling personnel as well as the driver of the train. He said an enquiry would be conducted after the relief operations were completed.
Meanwhile, Minister for Railways Mukul Roy, MoS for Railways K. H. Muniyappa are expected to visit the accident site at around 2 p.m. A. P. Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy is also expected to reach the spot around that time.The Hindu