Trapped Bhopal student fights for 10 hours in train wreckage and dies

Kanpur,Nov21:She was among the 120 passengers of the Indore-Rajendranagar Express killed in the 3.10am tragedy 75km from Kanpur, which left over 200 injured and an unknown number still trapped in the four worst hit among the 14 derailed coaches.

Sixty-two of the dead have been identified, of whom at least 20 are from Uttar Pradesh, 15 from Madhya Pradesh, 10 from Bihar and one each from Maharashtra and Gujarat. Officials said some 150 people had been admitted to hospital and 70-odd were seriously injured.

Komal fought for 10 hours before giving up her breath. Fellow passenger Rakesh Kumar Gupta described to The Telegraph how he had had a narrow escape but had to helplessly watch life ebb out of Komal whom he had tried his best to help.

Both were in Coach B3, an air-conditioned compartment that had telescoped into another and been compressed to half. Komal was on Berth 30, an upper berth, which came off its hinges and collapsed on her along with a heap of suitcases.

“She and many of us passed out. I regained consciousness after an hour and found myself trapped between Berths 28 and 29. She (Komal) was moaning in pain,” Gupta said.

“She responded when I shouted at her twice. She asked me what had happened and I said our train seemed to have met with an accident. I could see that many people were already dead.”

Gupta, a civil engineer who was to get off at Lucknow and board another train for hometown Gorakhpur, found a window above his head and somehow managed to attack it from his cramped position.

“I started hitting it with my suitcase at 5am and managed to break it at 11.30. This is how I crawled out of the bogie,” Gupta said.

The police, army and the National Disaster Response Force had gathered between 8am and 9am but machine-aided rescue efforts began only around 11.

“It was difficult to pull Komal out because both her legs had been caught under the mangled metal,” Gupta said.

“A policeman reached the spot minutes after I had wriggled out and managed to cut a portion of the metal. The army took over after a few minutes and used a gas cutter to create space for her.”

Gupta said he was deeply concerned for Komal because he had talked to her before they both retired for the night.

“I was watching the operation to rescue her from the broken window. I saw her close her eyes around 1pm,” he said.

“She was pulled out by 1.15pm. A doctor gave her an injection and she moved her head a few times. Then she passed away.”

Brigadier A. Chhibbar, leading an army team of soldiers and doctors, said that rescuing those still trapped would be “a difficult task that may take many hours”.

“Parts of these coaches have turned into solid metal,” he said. “We need to work through the night.”

‘Three lurches

Junior railway minister Manoj Sinha told reporters at the site, Pukhrayan, that the derailment seemed to have happened “because of a fractured rail track”.

But many passengers said the train had lurched powerfully at least three times earlier during the journey starting from the time it left Jhansi station just before midnight, suggesting the authorities had had three hours to act.

“The train shook badly with a loud noise at least three times after it left Jhansi. Once I almost fell off my berth,” Dewasta Dwivedi, who too was travelling in Coach B3, said.

“Many passengers told the ticket examiner about the jerking. He said he had alerted the driver, who had promised to ask the mechanics to check the problem once the train reached Kanpur. Lives could have been saved had they taken us seriously.”

Minister Sinha said, without elaboration: “The loco inspector had realised the train was skidding but the tragedy happened before he could act.”