India's "Oxygen Express" train made its first run on Thursday from Visakhapatnam to Maharashtra, where COVID-19 cases have been rising fast and hospitals have been gasping for oxygen supply for critical patients. The train carrying oxygen tankers left the Rashtriya Ispat Nigam (RINL) facility at the Andhra Pradesh town Thursday evening.
"Seven empty tankers from... Maharashtra reached Rashtriya Ispat Nigam, Visakhapatnam, early morning today. Liquid medical oxygen (LMO) has been filled in the tankers since morning," the railways said in a statement on Thursday.
"Each tanker has been loaded with 15 tonnes of LMO and the train started to move towards Maharashtra in the evening. A joint effort by Waltair Division of East Coast Railways, and officials of RINL made the project a success. This will prove to be highly beneficial during the recent upsurge in COVID-19," the railways said.
Railway Minister Piyush Goyal tweeted a video of the train preparing to pull out from the RINL facility.
"The first 'Oxygen Express' train loaded with liquid medical oxygen tankers has left for Maharashtra from Vizag. Railways continues to serve the nation in difficult times by transporting essential commodities and driving innovation to ensure the well-being of all citizens," Mr Goyal tweeted.
The first 'Oxygen Express' train loaded with liquid medical oxygen tankers has left for Maharashtra from Vizag.— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) April 22, 2021
Railways continues to serve the nation in difficult times by transporting essential commodities and driving innovation to ensure the wellbeing of all citizens. pic.twitter.com/4t7ZKbjeIT
The railways will run the "Oxygen Express" train from steel plants that produce oxygen to different parts of the country.
"Railways transported essential commodities and kept the supply chain intact even during the lockdown last year and continue to serve the nation in times of emergencies. This time, the movement of 'Oxygen Express' towards different parts of the country will help patients and different hospitals," the railways said. General Manager Vidya Bhusan congratulated the Waltair team led by Divisional Railway Manager Chetan Srivastava for carrying out the task.
The surge in Covid cases in recent weeks has led to what is now being called a deadlier second wave of the pandemic. Several instances of desperate people trying to find oxygen or a hospital bed for friends and relatives are doing the rounds on social media.
More and more are complaining of breathlessness, requiring oxygen support. However, the supply of oxygen has become severely limited due to the sudden jump in demand across cities and towns.
People have gone to social media to seek help, while state governments and the centre are also working to arrange oxygen faster with the help of the private sector.