Bikaner-Guwahati Express derails in Bengal: What led to the deaths of seven passengers and a look back at other train tragedies

"A heavy jerk followed a loud sound, I fell from my berth and everything went blank." That's how a survivor recounts the Bika...

"A heavy jerk followed a loud sound, I fell from my berth and everything went blank."

That's how a survivor recounts the Bikaner-Guwahati Express train accident, which led to the death of seven people and injuring another 45 people.

We look back at what happened on Thursday evening that resulted in this tragedy and past incidents which grabbed the headlines.

Bikaner-Guwahati Express train derails

According to officials, 12 coaches of the Bikaner-Guwahati Express train derailed and some overturned near Domohani in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district around 5 pm in an area under the Alipurduar division of Northeast Frontier Railway.

Reports state that there were 1,053 passengers on board the train at the time of the derailment.

A PTI report stated that hundreds of people from nearby villages gathered at the spot and lent a helping hand to passengers who had got trapped inside the collapsed coaches. Some of the bogies had gotten detached from the rest of the train under the impact, while some wheels came off.

Officials have pegged the official tally at seven people dying and another 45 being injured. "Seven passengers have died so far. We recovered four bodies from the accident site while three people died in hospital," Jalpaiguri District Magistrate Moumita Godara Basu said, adding at least 45 passengers were injured in the accident.

"Since some of them are in a critical condition, the death toll may go up. We are now using cranes for removing the damaged compartments," she said, adding rescuers thoroughly searched each coach for survivors and bodies through darkness and thick fog.

Post-midnight, a statement from the Northeast Frontier Railway said that the rescue operations of the derailed Bikaner-Guwahati Express train had been completed.

Assam special DGP (Law and Order) G P Singh said in a tweet that the relief train with stranded passengers has left the accident site at 9.30 pm and is expected to reach Guwahati around 2 am on 14 January.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the tragedy when they were in the middle of an online meeting to review the COVID-19 situation in the country with other chief ministers.

The prime minister later tweeted, “Spoke to Railways Minister Shri @AshwiniVaishnaw and took stock of the situation in the wake of the train accident in West Bengal. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly.”

The Railways have announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 5 lakh to the next of kin of those killed in the accident, Rs 1 lakh to the grievously injured and Rs 25,000 for passengers with simple injury.

President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu too expressed grief over the accident and wished speedy recovery to those injured.

"The derailment of coaches of the Bikaner-Guhawati Express near New Maynaguri, West Bengal is distressing. My thoughts and prayers are with the affected passengers and their families. I wish a speedy recovery to the injured,” Kovind tweeted.

Vice President Naidu said he was deeply saddened by the loss of lives. "My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families. I pray for the speedy recovery of the injured," the Vice President's Secretariat tweeted, quoting Naidu.

Past train tragedies

While this may be the first train tragedy in 2022, train accidents occur quite frequently in India.

According to National Crime Records Bureau, more than 13,000 train accidents occurred across the country in 2020, killing nearly 12,000 railway passengers.

Take a look at some of the worst train tragedies that have taken place in the past 10 years.

• 3 February, 2019: Seven passengers were killed when Seemanchal Express derailed near Patna, Bihar.

• 10 October, 2018: Seven people died and 60 were hurt after six coaches of the New Farakka Express train derailed 50 m from Harchandpur railway station in Uttar Pradesh's Raebareli.

• 19 October, 2018: At least 60 people were killed and 72 injured after a train ran into a crowd of Dussehra revellers who were watching the burning of Ravan’s effigy in Punjab’s Amritsar. The crowd had gathered to watch celebrations for Dussehra near the tracks in the Joda Phatak area in the outskirts of Amritsar. The train was described as a diesel multiple unit local passenger train travelling westbound from Jalandhar station to Amritsar. Several witnesses claimed that the train did not blow its horn when it got close to the crowds of spectators. However, the driver said that he both honked and applied the emergency brakes but did not come to a complete halt because the crowd had begun to pelt the train with stones.

• 21 January, 2017: At least 39 people were killed and more than 100 received serious injuries after Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Express derailed in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh. The incident happened around 11 pm when the train was on its way to Bhubaneswar from Jagdalpur. "Total seven coaches and the engine of the 18448 Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Express derailed near Kuneru station. Besides the engine, the luggage van, two general coaches, two sleeper coaches, one AC three tier coach and an AC two tier coach derailed," Chief PRO of East Coast Railway J P Mishra was quoted as saying at the time.

• 20 November, 2016: The Indore–Patna Express 19321, a scheduled train from Indore to Patna, derailed near Pukhrayan, Kanpur, India, on 20 November 2016, killing at least 150 people and injuring more than 150 others.

• 10 September, 2002: Over 140 people were killed when the Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express derailed near Rafiganj station between Gaya and Dehri-on-Sone stations. Since the same track was deemed fragile and was from the British period, the rail incident was triggered by a manual fault. Heavy rain triggered a track break, which contributed to the derailment of the Rajdhani, which was moving at 100 km/h.

With inputs from PTI and agencies

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India World News: Bikaner-Guwahati Express derails in Bengal: What led to the deaths of seven passengers and a look back at other train tragedies
Bikaner-Guwahati Express derails in Bengal: What led to the deaths of seven passengers and a look back at other train tragedies
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