Hirakhand Derailment: 15-Inch Gap In Rail Spells Disaster


Hyderabad: Railway authorities say “breakage of the tongue rail” was prima facie the reason for the derailment of the Jagadalpur-Bhubaneswar Hirakhand Express near Kuneru railway station in Komarada mandal of Vizianagaram district on Saturday night, but sabotage can’t be ruled out. The CRPF, BSF, GRP and AP Police said that Kuneru is a Maoist stronghold and very close to Rayagada of Odisha.

A mysterious 15-inch gap in the rail line caused the major rail disaster in the Waltair division of the East Coast Railway in which around 39 people lost their lives and 60 were injured.

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The station is located on the periphery of the Maoist dominated agency area. The police and locals say that in the last one decade Kuneru station has been the target of Maoist violence, with two blasts destroying the cabin of the station. Three Railway Protection Force personnel have been shot dead and four others injured in the past and in December 2005 a large amount of cash meant for railway station staff was looted.

Waltair division railway manager of the East Coast Railway, Chandralekha Mukherjee, who also visited the spot and interacted with several railway officials, said officials are still groping in the dark about how to account for the 15-inch gap in the track.

Ms Mukherjee said that the track supervisor who inspected the track found it to be normal and didn’t find any suspicious objects and persons in the area. The Hirakhand Express was travelling at a speed of 55-60 kmph when it derailed; the normal speed of the train was around 100 kmph.

“The general manager (Umesh Singh) had plans to visit the Vizianagaram-Rayagada section in the next week and I planned to visit the section on Monday as I had signed a file clearing two more trains to pass through the electric traction on Saturday. As the damage to the track occurred within a short period (after the passing of a goods train), we can’t rule out any speculation including sabotage,” she said.

An initial examination shows that a portion the track had broken off, as if someone had cut the track at both ends. The loco-pilot D.N. Raju and assistant loco pilot V.S. Meena, have shared some points with the DRM. The commissioner of railway safety under the ministry of civil aviation will hold an inquiry into the incident in Rayagada and Vizag.

Security agencies say that the derailment was clearly an accident; there were cracks and the track had weakened and given away. Intelligence sources said that though Kuneru was in an area where Maoists operated, there has not been any Maoist movement here for the past one year.

DIG of Visakha Range Ch. Srikanth, who visited the accident site said that the police was not ruling out any angle including sabotage, but the chances of sabotage were low as the incident took place around 100 metres from the Kuneru signal cabin.