The death toll in a horrific train accident in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district was on Sunday put at 24 as officials announced an end to rescue work. At least 156 people were injured and 10 were in critical condition. An official said the injured were being treated at medical facilities in Muzaffarnagar and Meerut. The Kalinga Utkal Express was on its way from Puri in Odisha to Haridwar in Uttarakhand when 14 coaches derailed on Saturday evening at Khatauli in Muzaffarnagar district.
The accident was so severe that some of the derailed coaches mounted on others. So far 10 victims have been identified: Sukhi Prajapati (Madhya Pradesh), Alok Sarkar (New Delhi), Vishnu Goswami, Braj Kumar Prajapati and Brijraj Pandey (Gwalior), Rinki Kumari (Agra), Karishma and Sumit Garg (Saharanpur) and Rampal Singh Sharma and Vineet Mittal (Muzaffarnagar).
Efforts were on to identify the others who have died, an official told IANS. Doctors fear the death toll may rise as 10 of the injured were in critical condition. The railway staff was working to clear the derailed coaches and repair the damaged tracks. All trains on the route had been diverted. A Home Department official said 90 ambulances and four teams of the National Disaster Relief Force were engaged in rescue work through the night but many relatives of the dead and injured complained of a lack of ambulances to ferry the injured to hospitals.
In New Delhi, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday said he had told the Chairman of the Railway Board to fix responsibility for the disaster by evening on the strength of prima facie evidence. “Will not allow laxity in operations by the (Board),” Prabhu tweeted. “Restoration (of operations) is top priority… Monitoring situation closely.” The Railway Commissioner (Safety) will be visiting the site to conduct a preliminary inspection. He added that a terror angle was not ruled out.