Lucknow, July 10: About 35 people were killed dead and at least 150 injured Sunday noon as 14 coaches of a speeding Kalka-bound train derailed in Uttar Pradesh, trapping hundreds of passengers for hours in the mangled mess. The army was hurriedly deployed in the rescue operations.
The accident, which took place as the Kalka Mail was nearing the Malwan railway station in Fatehpur district, toppled some of the coaches over two adjoining rail tracks, sealing off the busy route to Howrah from where the train was coming.
The overturned coaches included the air-conditioned ones and the pantry car. At least one coach was crushed by another. The accident site is about 140 km from here.
Even as dazed and slightly wounded passengers made it out of the train coaches, with or without help from villagers who were the first to rush to the site, the death toll began to steadily climb.
Uttar Pradesh Special Director General of Police Brij Lal told IANS that while 31 bodies had been taken out, he believed at least 35 passengers had been killed.
The reason for the accident was not clear. But some officials said the train was going at over 100 km per hour when the driver applied emergency brakes just before the Malwan station.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed shock over the disaster. The central and the Uttar Pradesh governments quickly announced compensation for the dead and the injured.
Rescue efforts at the start were slow as villagers and policemen lacked expertise and equipment to cut open the coaches. Some passengers charged the railways with lethargy.
It took some time for the railway staff to reach the coaches and start cutting them to extricate the trapped passengers. The dead had to be taken out. Some passengers smashed window panes to come out.
Some 200 policemen did what they could -- putting the injured on large pieces of cloth to be lifted to the nearest vehicles to be taken to Kanpur and Fatehpur hospitals.
Soldiers then joined the rescue work. Military helicopters ferried the more seriously injured to hospitals to Lucknow and Allahabad, about 120 km away.
'Hundreds remained trapped inside the coaches until gas cutters were put on the job to cut open the metal-frame of the coaches,' North Central Railway senior divisional operations manager Pradeep Ojha told IANS over telephone from Allahabad.
Fatehpur's Chief Medical Officer Keshav Narain Joshi also put the number of dead at 35. He said at least least 150 were injured in varying degrees.
'We are including not only the bodies which have been extricated from the coaches but also those yet to be pulled ou,' he said.About 15 of the seriously injured were rushed to hospitals in Fatehpur (16 km away) and Kanpur (45 km away), Joshi added.
The railway ministry announced a compensation of Rs.5 lakh to the next of kin of the dead.Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati declared an ex gratia relief of Rs.1 lakh to families of each of the dead. Those who sustained serious injuries will get Rs.1 Lakh each.
Officials said two relief trains - from Kanpur and Allahabad - have been sent to the spot.
India's rail network is one of the largest in the world and carries about 14 million passengers a day.