KOLKATA/LUCKNOW: Railway minister Mukul Roy will leave for Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, where six coaches of the Dehradun-bound Howrah-Dehradun Doon Express derailed, by the Howrah Rajdhani Express on Thursday evening.
According to sources, Roy will get off at Mughalsarai from where he will travel by road towards Jaunpur.
"It was an extremely sad incident and I am leaving for the spot. The next to kin of those killed will receive Rs 5 lakh as ex-gratia while the family members of those seriously injured will get Rs 100,000 each. Those who suffered minor injuries will receive Rs 25,000. The railways will take care of the relatives of affected passengers who wish to travel to Jaunpur. They can travel by special coaches that will be attached to the Doon Express that will leave Howrah on Thursday," Roy said before leaving Kolkata.
The railway minister was supposed to visit Cooper's Camp in Ranaghat, Nadia, where elections to the notified area are to be held on June 3. He changed his plans after the accident, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said. Though Mamata did not write off the possibility of sabotage, Roy refused to comment on the matter.
The chief minister said that she has received information that the assistant loco pilot of the train spotted something on the track and emergency brakes were applied, leading to the accident.
"AP Mishra, member, Railway Board, has already held a press conference and indicated the possible reasons for the accident. More will be known after an inquiry is conducted," the railway minister said. He said that four persons have died so far and 15 passengers have been injured. A high-level inquiry committee has been set up to probe the accident, he added.
Earlier in the day, Mishra had said that there is possibility of sabotage. "We can't say anything for sure but it is possible that somebody removed some material from the tracks. Normally, trains can pass over an unclamped portion of the track but in extremely hot weather, there can be some distortions in the affected portion and cause a derailment. However, nothing can be said for sure till and inquiry is conducted," he had said.
At least five passengers were killed and more than 50 injured when Doon Express (Howrah-Dehradun) derailed at Mehrawan station in Jaunpur district under Varanasi division of the Northern Railway at around 1.15 pm Thursday.
The death toll may increase as 10 people are seriously injured in the accident. While around 200 passengers were rescued by the local villagers before arrival of the officials, over 500 are said to be still trapped in the damaged coaches.
The officials said that the driver of the Doon Express had seen some distortion in the railway track and as a result, applied breaks. Ten coaches along with the engine safely passed through the `damaged' track. However, seven coaches at the rear got derailed.
The place where the accident took place is 35 km from Jaunpur railway station and 70 km from Varanasi. Officers of the district administration along with ambulances and medical care reached the spot in half and hour. Senior officials including the divisional railway manager from Lucknow have also rushed to the spot. Officials from Delhi are expected to reach the spot by Friday morning. The railway minister is expected to arrive by the evening.
Hot weather added to the problems of the passengers. There was no shelter around and no drinking water facility. The passengers called up their friends and relatives in nearby districts for help. Some even called up media organisations.
The railways has dispatched three relief trains from Lucknow, Faizabad and Varanasi to the accident site. The relief trains will bring stranded passengers to Lucknow and Varanasi. A crane and a bulldozer from the Jaunpur districts have been sent to the spot to lift the damaged coaches.
The Indian railways has released two helpline numbers -- Faizabad 05278-220284 and Lucknow 0522-2234533.
The faulty rail track is being seen as the initial cause of the accident. Some officials believe the accident was caused due to the expansion of the rail track due to high temperature. "We can not comment on the reason for the derailment now," said Ashwini Srivastava, senior divisional commercial manager, Lucknow, Northern Railway. The officials did not confirm the number of causalities either.
The track has been closed for train movement. Officials said that it could be cleared only by Friday afternoon. As a result, several trains have been delayed. The routes of the trains are being changed to bypass the accident venue.