Almost a kilometre from the spot where two speeding trains mowed down over 50 people, the mortuary at the Amritsar Civil Hospital struggled to accommodate bodies being sent in from the accident site. Heart-rending scenes were witnessed at Civil Hospital and Guru Nanak Hospital, where most injured people were taken late Friday evening. Thirty-three people were declared dead on arrival at Civil Hospital; 19 were declared dead on arrival, by 11 pm, at Guru Nanak Hospital.
“The tragedy is so grave that Amritsar may fall short of space in mortuaries to keep the bodies,” said Punjab’s Health Minister Brahm Mohindra.
Bodies were lying on the floor outside mortuaries in both hospitals. Angry people at the hospitals protested lack of resources for taking proper care of the bodies.
Mohindra, under whose leadership Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has set up a crisis management group after the tragedy, told The Indian Express, “Mortuaries were not equipped to keep as many bodies as would be released by the hospitals. We are making other arrangements”.
He added: “Victims were still in hospitals and were in the process of being declared dead. Doctors’ weekend holidays have been cancelled in districts close to Amritsar. They have been asked to rush to Amritsar. Several have already reached and are treating the victims,” Mohindra said.
Nittu (25), her mother Nirmla Devi (45), and daughter-in-law Karamjit all died in the accident. Their partially covered bodies were lying on the floor of Civil Hospital as authorities awaited ice to preserve them.
Among the dead was 13-year-old Abhishek, who was killed along with his father, Ganesh (35). While Abhishek’s body was brought to the Civil Hospital, the body of his father was taken to Guru Nanak Hospital. Abhishek’s mother fell unconscious and was undergoing treatment in the civil hospital. His brother is reported missing in the train tragedy.
Ganesh’s brother, Raju, said that he was running between both hospitals, looking for his missing nephew, taking care of his unconscious sister-in-law, while still trying to figure out how to claim bodies of two other relatives.
Around midnight, the crowd outside Civil Hospital was swelling, and most of those present accused the district administration of not doing enough to take care of the bodies. Around 11 pm, when this report was filed, only 15 out of 33 bodies at Civil Hospital were put on ice.
Officials said that around 150 people, including the dead, were affected in the accident.
Amritsar Civil Hospital’s Senior Medical Officer (SMO) Jatin Arora said: “Government doctors from Tarn Taran and Gurdaspur districts are reaching Amritsar to take care of the large number of patients in emergency and trauma centres. We are also arranging for adequate amount of ice to take care of the bodies.”
Navjot Kaur Sidhu, who was the chief guest at the function, also reached Guru Nanak Hospital. After she faced flak from protesters, her security guards avoided a confrontation at the hospital.
Sandy Randhawa, a local politician, said, “Authorities are doing nothing. There is no arrangements for the treatment of the injured. There is no neurosurgeon at Guru Nanak Hospital. The staff are treating.”
With the district administration still in the process of setting up help and information desks, there were anti-government slogans outside the hospitals. “My father was also in the crowd. I have visited both hospitals but I could not find him. I do not know what to do, where to go. No one is available to give me any information,” Raj Kumar said. A government official said that “relief and rehabilitation efforts have been mounted by the state government on a war footing, with all the necessary administrative and police personnel to be mobilised to Amritsar, as per the orders of Chief Minister.”