Khatauli (Muzaffarnagar): Dazed survivors on Sunday recounted the horrific Kalinga Utkal Express train disaster, saying the death toll would have been much more but for the timely help rendered by residents of this Uttar Pradesh town.
Virtually everyone credited the locals with rescuing dozens of trapped passengers from the mangled coaches of the train that was on its way to Haridwar from Puri in Odisha. Many survived because the locals rushed them to hospitals, much before a rescue operation began.
A passenger from Rajasthan said he was in S2 coach that dramatically crashed into a house-cum-school in Khatauli, some 40 km from Muzaffarnagar town.
"I was going to Haridwar. I was about to take a nap when I suddenly felt a severe jolt. I thought the driver had applied emergency brakes, but by then I saw the coaches jumping off the tracks," he told reporters. He said he was rescued by the residents of the house hit by the S2 coach. "They came out quickly and a group of people brought me out of the coach."
The S1 and S2 coaches and the Pantry car of the train were badly damaged in the accident that left over 20 people dead and nearly 100 injured.
The survivors said the locals also quickly provided water, food and tea not only to them but also to everyone engaged in rescue work.
A Hindu holy man also travelling to Haridwar said he was rescued by a group of people that included Muslims.
"I was trapped in the S2 coach but a group of Muslim people heard my screams and brought me out," he said with a sense of gratitude.
A survivor from Gwalior said he lost one of his family members in the accident. "I was going to Haridwar with my wife, our two children and the son of my elder brother. Just two minutes before the accident, my nephew went to the washroom and then everything crashed," he said in a choking voice.
Recounting the "horror", an eyewitness said he and others brought out bodies from the mangled coaches, some with their parts missing.
"I pray to God that nobody should witness such horror. First we saw the coaches jump for over five feet in air and then crash on one another. It was devastating to take out the mangled bodies," he said. Another witness said stones laid along the rail tracks flew in several directions when the accident occurred. "We took out passengers trapped inside the coaches and sent them to hospitals on our vehicles," he said. He said he and some others wanted to save three people from the S2 coach but could save only one.
"They were very badly trapped inside. It was very difficult to bring them out alive."
Khatauli's residents blamed the railways for gross negligence because maintenance work was only half done on the tracks which the train took -- and the driver had no clue about it.
"The repair work was going on. But when it started raining, the workers left the site," said a resident, adding the train was running at high speed.