Turna Nishita crashes into Udayan Express; over 70 injured; death toll may rise; rail links restored after nearly eight hours; three railway staffs suspended; five probe bodies formed
In the worst railway disaster over the past decade, 16 people including five children were killed in a collision between two intercity trains in Kasba upazila of Brahmanbaria early Tuesday.
Dhaka-bound Turna Nishita, coming from Chittagong, crashed into Chittagong-bound Udayan Express, coming from Sylhet, near Mondobagh Railway Station around 2:45am, according to railway and district administration officials.
The crash threw at least four bogies of Udayan Express off the tracks and left them in a mangled state, leading to the casualties. At least 200ft stretch of railway tracks was also damaged.
Locals, Fire Service and Civil Defence personnel, railway staffs, members of police, Bangladesh Army and Border Guards Bangladesh carried out a seven-hour-long rescue operation at the scene starting from the early hours, said Brahmanbaria’s Deputy Commissioner (DC) Hayat-ud-Dowla Khan.
DC Hayat, Kasba Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Masud Ul Alam and the district’s Superintendent of Police Md Anisur Rahman oversaw the rescue operation, which ended around 10am.
Both DC Hayat and UNO Masud said 10 passengers were killed on the spot, and six others died in hospitals undergoing treatment. All of them were on Udayan Express.
More than 70 others were also injured in the horrific accident. Officials feared the death toll might rise, as several injured were in critical condition.
Seven of the deceased were from Habiganj, six from Chandpur and the other three from Moulvibazar, Brahmanbaria and Noakhali, officials said after identifying them later in the day.
They are: Mujibul Rahman, 55; Yasir Arafat, 12; Sujon Ahmed, 24; Jaheda Khatun, 30; Kulsum Begum, 30; Al Amin, 30; Ali Md Yousuf, 32; Adiba, 2; Sohamoni, 4; Farzana Begum, 41; Ripon Mia, 22; Kakoli, 32; Mariam Begum, 4; Farzana Rahman, 15; Rony Harijan, 35; and Peyara Begum, 48.
DC Hayat later confirmed that all 16 bodies were handed over to their families by 6pm.
Brahmanbaria Civil Surgeon Dr Shah Alam said at least 77 people were injured in the incident. They were being treated at different hospitals in Brahmanbaria, Kasba, Akhaura and Comilla.
Some of the injured, including the drivers of Turna Nishita train, were admitted to Dhaka Medical College Hospital, National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopedic Rehabilitation and different private hospitals in Dhaka.
Train services between Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet were snapped for nearly eight hours after the accident, causing a schedule collapse as several trains were delayed.
The rail links were restored around 10am Tuesday, after relief trains from Akhaura and Laksam Junctions arrived at the scene and moved the wrecked bogies and debris from the tracks, said Chittagong Divisional Railway Manager Md Monir Uddin.
However, the repair work of the damaged railway tracks was underway late into the evening.
Kazi Fazle Rabbi, a passenger of Turna Nishita, gave an account of his experience, saying: “Turna Nishita crashed into Udayan before the Chittagong-bound train crossed the railroad switch. The impact threw several bogies of Udayan off the tracks.
“We were all sleeping at the time. After the accident, we got off the train as quickly as we could.”
Udayan Express passenger Nurul Islam said: “I was not injured as I was in one of the front bogies. But several passengers of the tail-end bogies died on the spot and many others were injured.”
“The rest of us got off the train as soon as we could, and later helped the rescuers save the injured passengers,” he said.
Md Salam, a resident of Mondobagh area, said: “We woke up after hearing a dreadful loud noise in the early hours. When several of us came to see what happened, we found many dead bodies and injured people strewn around.
“Later, many locals arrived and helped the authorities carry out the rescue operation.”
Zahir Mia of neighbouring Chandkhola village, who also helped rescuing the victims, said: “You won’t believe the horror unless you saw the aftermath yourself.”
Abu Taher of same village said, after arriving at the scene, they found many injured passengers without limbs. “We sent many of the injured to hospitals on seven pickup vans.”
President Md Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed shock over Tuesday's accident and mourned the deaths of 16 people.
The prime minister also ordered the authorities concerned to extend all-out support to the victims and intensify vigilance to prevent similar incidents in future.
Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan visited the accident site around 10:30am Tuesday, and announced Tk1 lakh compensation from his ministry for the families of each deceased.
He said an additional Tk25,000 was given to these families for the funeral procedures by the district administration, and the ministry would provide Tk10,000 to each of the injured.
“The government will also bear the treatment cost of all the injured,” the minister told reporters later at Comilla Medical College Hospital, after checking on the victims undergoing treatment there.
Later in the day, Railways Secretary Mofazzal Hossain, who also visited the scene in the morning, confirmed that five committees were formed to investigate the mishap.
One of them was formed by Brahmanbaria district administration and two each by the Railways Ministry and Bangladesh Railway authorities.
The committees were given various timeframes to submit their findings.
None of the authorities, however, could say whether a case would be filed over the incident.
According to Bangladesh Railway, train accidents have led to 1,546 recorded casualties between July 2007 and June 2017, which include 365 deaths and 1,181 cases of injury.
Meanwhile, officials, after preliminary investigation, said Tuesday's crash took place as the drivers of Turna Nishita failed to follow the signal of incoming Udayan Express.
Brahmanbaria DC Hayat and Mondobagh Railway Station Master Zakir Hossain Chowdhury said Turna Nishita loco master Taser Uddin ignored the outer and home signals, which were emitting red lights, and hit Udayan Express when it was changing tracks.
Railways Secretary Mofazzal said Turna Nishita’s loco master Taser, assistant loco master Anup Deb and guard Abdur Rahman were suspended after the incident.
“The trio will remain suspended until the probe committees submit their reports,” he said.
Chittagong Divisional Railway Manager Monir added that the trio will also be questioned.
However, guard Abdur Rahman defended their position, saying they could not see the signal as there was a pile of bricks in front of the signal pole at the turn before Mondobagh Railway Station.