Derailment: Prabhu asks authorities to fix responsibility

Derailment: Prabhu asks authorities to fix responsibility

Relatives of the victims of Utkal Express train accident mourn at the Muzaffarnagar district hospital.

New Delhi: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on Sunday directed the Chairman of the Railway Board (CRB) to determine who or what caused the derailment of the Utkal Express train in Uttar Pradesh.

The minister said he was monitoring the situation closely, and restoration of tracks was a top priority.

More than 20 people died and 156 were injured after 14 coaches of the Utkal Express derailed near Muzaffarnagar in western Uttar Pradesh on Saturday evening.

“Restoration is top priority. Seven coaches tackled. Also ensuring best possible medical care for the injured. Monitoring situation closely,” he said in a tweet.

“Will not allow laxity in operations by the Board. Have directed CRB to fix responsibility on prima facie evidence by end of day,” he tweeted.

Prabhu had ordered an inquiry into the derailment on Saturday. The minister also announced Rs3,50,000 (Dh20,058) ex gratia compensation for those who lost their lives, Rs50,000 for the seriously injured and Rs25,000 suffering minor injuries.

Building on an overnight search and rescue operation, the railways on Sunday deployed high-tech cranes and scores of workers to clear the tracks even as the sleepy town of Khatauli tried to come to terms with the tragedy.

Two heavy duty 140-tonne cranes were pressed into service at the crack of dawn to clear the ill-fated coaches from which the survivors were rescued and bodies pulled out late into the night.

Thirteen coaches of the high-speed Utkal Express on Saturday jumped the rails, with one of them crashing into a house adjacent to the track near Khatauli.

A group of curious onlookers gathered at the site of the accident this morning, as two coaches were hauled and put off track on the ground beside it.

Linesmen and other workers brought from nearby places shovelled away unwanted stones as new concrete sleepers were laid to reinforce the tracks.

“We have come from Panipat to work on the clearing of tracks,” said a linesman on the job.

Work is currently under way to haul an overturned coach, which had rammed into the facade of a local college, while another sleeper coach that had rammed into a house, shattering its frontage, is still to be restored on the ground.

“The train had 23 coaches, out of which 13 had derailed. It was running at a speed of about 100km/h when the accident took place,” said Delhi Division DRM, R N Singh.

Six of the derailed coaches were damaged severely.

Badly mangled coaches are posing a tough challenge in carrying out the work, going on in full swing after the rescue operation by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) got over at around 3am.

A posse of security personnel from the UP Police, the RPF and the Public Affairs Centre has been deployed at the site of the accident since it occurred.