At least seven persons were killed and over 40 others injured, including 13 critically, after 12 coaches of the Bikaner-Guwahati Express derailed Thursday evening near the New Domohani station in West Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district, officials said.
A high-level probe has been ordered to find the cause of the accident that took place at 4.53 pm about 42 km from the New Jalpaiguri station, on a section between the New Domohani and New Maynaguri stations, officials said.
The injured have been admitted to hospitals in Jalpaiguri and Maynaguri, which is about 12-13 km from the site, and the death toll may rise, they said. Three persons were brought dead to the Maynaguri hospital and four others died at the Jalpaiguri Super Speciality Hospital.
Guwahati-based Northeast Frontier Railway said in a statement that there were 1,053 passengers onboard the train headed to the city from Rajasthan’s Bikaner via Patna in Bihar.
#Watch | Several compartments of the Guwahati-Bikaner Express derailed near West Bengal’s Domohani area on Thursday. No casualties have been reported so far.https://t.co/nGjzxSH4tk pic.twitter.com/YXvjotZoWS
According to officials at the spot, some coaches toppled from the track and one coach was found on top of another. Several of the dead and injured were found lying on both sides of the track, while others were found stuck inside a mangled coach, they said.
“Initially, the rescue operation was hampered as night fell but floodlights and cranes were soon sent to the spot,” an official said.
This is the first major rail accident involving fatalities since the derailment of Seemanchal Express in February 2019 in Bihar where six people lost their lives.
“It is an unfortunate incident. I will be visiting the spot tomorrow. I have already spoken to the Prime Minister and apprised him about the rescue operation. The rescue operation is our focus now,” said Rail Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that he spoke to Vaishnaw “and took stock of the situation”. “My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover quickly,” Modi posted.
Detailing the rescue operations, officials said essential equipment, including cranes and gas cutters, have been deployed at the site while medical equipment and a relief train to transport stranded passengers have been sent. Two teams of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and several Railways and district administration officials have rushed to the spot, they said.
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.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 13, 2022
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who reportedly came to know of the incident during a virtual meeting of CMs with the Prime Minister, said the state government is monitoring the situation closely.
“Deeply concerned to hear about the tragic accident of the Bikaner-Guwahati Express in Maynaguri. Senior officers of the state government, DM/SP/IG North Bengal are supervising rescue and relief operations. Those injured will receive medical attention, as early as possible. Situation being closely monitored from the State HQs,” she tweeted.
Deeply concerned to hear about the tragic accident of the Bikaner-Guwahati Express in Maynaguri.
Senior Officers of the State Government, DM/SP/IG North Bengal are supervising rescue and relief operations. Those injured will receive medical attention, as early as possible.
— Mamata Banerjee (@MamataOfficial) January 13, 2022
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said he has been in touch with Banerjee as well as Vaishnaw. “I spoke to Hon’ble West Bengal CM Smt @MamataOfficial ji to inquire about the Bikaner-Guwahati Express mishap. She assured to provide all help & assistance on ground and also keep us posted on the ongoing situation. I thank her for offering all her support to the victims,” he tweeted.
Following the accident, Guwahati-Howrah Saraighat Express, Kamakhya-Anand Vihar Express and New Delhi-Guwahati Express were among the trains that were diverted through alternative routes.
The Railways has announced an ex-gratia payment of “Rs 5 lakh towards dead, Rs 1 lakh to grievously injured and Rs 25,000 for passengers with simple injury”.
“A team of medical specialists, including surgeons and anaesthetists, were formed for emergency response,” said Dr Ajay Chakraborty, Director of Health Services, West Bengal. —(With inputs from ENS/Delhi)