The mishap occurred around 3:15 this morning when the Hampi Express, travelling from Hubli to Bangalore, rammed a stationary goods train near Penukonda station in Anantapur district. (See First Pics)
As a result of the collision, two coaches of the Hampi Express derailed and caught fire. According to reports, when the accident occurred, a police personnel travelling in the train immediately called the circle inspector. The timely information helped the police reach the site quickly. However, the fire made it difficult for them to begin rescue efforts.
Firefighters and railway officers helped the police in rescue operations. They used metal cutters to get inside the bogies where passengers were stuck. They also shifted the injured to hospitals in Penukonda, Hindupur and Anantapur.
Railway Minister Mukul Roy is on his way to the accident site. "Every life is precious. This is a very sad incident," the minister said before leaving Bangalore for Penukonda. He has ordered an inquiry into the collision and has also offered to arrange Railway jobs for those injured. "If anybody injured wants to join the Railways, we will provide him or her with jobs," he said. The minister also announced a compensation of Rs five lakh each for the families of the deceased, Rs one lakh for those who sustained grievous injuries and Rs 50,000 for those who received minor injuries.
According to Harinath Reddy, the Deputy Superintendent of Government Railway Police, Guntakal, most of the victims of the accident were labourers from Hubli and Hospet in Karnataka who were on their way to Bangalore. Those killed include at least three women and two children, he added.
Karnataka Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda, who also rushed to the accident site, has announced a compensation of Rs one lakh each for the families of those killed and Rs 25,000 for those injured.
Railways spokesperson Anil Saxena said according to preliminiary information available, the driver of the Hampi Express overshot the signal and rammed the rear of a stationary goods train. "Prima facie it seems that the driver of the Hampi Express overshot the signal," he said.
Mr Saxena added that the engine and the first three coaches of the Hampi Express were worst hit due to the collision. "The first bogey is guard-cum-luggage-cum passenger coach; the second and third are general compartments. While the first and the third coaches derailed, the second remained on the tracks," he said.
The police have registered a case against the driver of the express train and his assistant. Both were received minor injuries in the accident. They were questioned by the police today.
A relief train with medical supplies and a special train were sent from Bangalore to Penukonda to help the injured. Stranded passengers have now begun arriving at the Bangalore City Railway Station. While some of them reached Bangalore on the special train, others were brought to the city by bus.
Some of those injured seemed unhappy about the government's disaster management efforts. "I am very sorry about the disaster management efforts. These things keep on happening but precautions should be made and there should be more people to help," complained one of them.
"It has happened to poor public who were traveling in general compartment. There was no response from the Railways. I hope in future, the government will make efforts. Every junction should have disaster management systems," added another.
As a result of the accident, many Bangalore-bound trains travelling via Andhra Pradesh were delayed for close to three hours. The trains that were delayed included the Secunderabad-Bangalore Express and Delhi-Bangalore Rajdhani. Trains on the Bangalore-Mumbai route also saw minor delays.
HELPLINE NUMBERS: Bangalore - 080 22321166, 080 22156553, 080 22156554; Bellary - 08392 27704; Hospet - 08394 221788; Hubli - 0836 2345338, 0836 2346141, 0836 2289826