The Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express was always the preferred choice for Alok Sarkar. Saturday, the 48-year-old had boarded the ill-fated train to Muzaffarnagar. “Never thought, this would be his last journey,” Sarkar’s elder brother told PTI as he struggled to come to terms with the loss that last evening’s derailment has afflicted on the family.
“My brother used to work at the Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Office in Delhi and had boarded the train for Muzaffarnagar. He always used to take this train,” he said. Fourteen coaches of the high-speed train had jumped the rails last evening near Khatauli. One of the coaches crashed into a house by the tracks.
At least 21 people were killed and 97 injured, 26 of them grievously, in the derailment, the railways said. Sarkar’s brother-in-law said the family has received his body and is taking it to Delhi for cremation today. Saharanpur Divisional Commissioner Deepak Agarwal today told PTI, “We have identified about 12 bodies and their post-mortem have been conducted.” Later on, an official said four more bodies have been identified.
“The victims hailed from Rajasthan, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, Aligarh, among others,” he said. At the mortuary in Muzaffarnagar, the sight is unbearable as tearful family members of the victims, some of them survivors themselves, gather to collect bodies, a few of them wailing uncontrollably.
A group of family and friends from a Rajasthan village in Karaouli district, who were travelling together from Puri, had a harrowing time. They were travelling in the S-3 coach, one of the worst damaged bogies. “All of us have been injured, in legs or chest or head. Two of our family members, my father Ramji Lal Gujar (63) and Rampati (55),” Ramji’s son Shiv Chander said.
Those affected have been overwhelmed by the magnitude and severity of the accident and railways faces the challenge of clearing the tracks of the badly mangled coaches. The restoration efforts are still underway at Khatauli.