Update: Death toll in HirakhandExpress derailment rises to 39.
Kuneru: At least 36 passengers were killed and over 60 injured as the engine and nine coaches of the Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express derailed in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh with the railways suspecting foul play in the mishap.
Additional Divisional Railway Manager Ajay Arora said so far 34 deaths have been confirmed in the mishap that took place last night.
He said railway officials have identified 18 bodies and process was on to identify the remaining.
The toll may go up as many passengers are feared trapped in the mangled coaches of the train which derailed around 11 PM last night when it was on its way to Bhubaneswar from Jagdalpur.
The engine and nine coaches of the train went off the track near Kuneru station, Chief PRO of East Coast Railway J P Mishra said.
Odisha DGP K B Singh put the death toll in the derailment at 32.
Railways suspect that tampering of the track near Kuneru station led to the derailment of the train.
“There is a strong indication of tampering with the track as the area is known to be a Naxal-prone zone and as Republic Day is approaching. Foul play cannot be ruled out,” sources said.
According to the sources, “A goods train had safely passed the same track. The patrol man had also checked the track. However, the driver of the train heard a big cracker-like sound just before the derailment and there appeared to be a big crack on the track which caused the derailment”.
Terming the incident as “saddening”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi
said the Railway Ministry was monitoring the situation very closely and working to ensure quick rescue and relief operations.
He also wished for speedy recovery of all those injured.
“My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones due to derailment of Jagdalpur-Bhubaneswar Express. The tragedy is saddening.I pray for a speedy recovery of all those injured due to the train accident,” he said in a tweet.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed deep grief over the tragedy and wished speedy recovery of the injured passengers.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu reviewed the situation with ministers from north coastal Andhra and asked them to rush to the accident spot to supervise rescue and relief measures.
“We are investigating the cause of the mishap,” the Chief Minister said, expressing anguish over the tragedy.
“I have directed administration to undertake relief and rescue operations. Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has expressed his condolences. He has also announced an ex-gratia amount of Rs 2 lakh to the family of the deceased and Rs 50,000 to the seriously injured,” he said.
An inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the circumstances that led to the accident, the CPRO said.