Khatauli, Uttar Pradesh: Four railway officials have been suspended over the train accident on Saturday that left over 22 dead and injured over 200 in Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar district. Three others have been transferred and one has been sent on leave. Thirteen coaches of the Puri-Haridwar Utkal Express ran off the tracks around 5:45 pm in Khatauli, about 100 km from New Delhi. The move came on a day that Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu assured prompt action over the accident that appeared to have been caused due to negligence.
Railways has taken action against eight officials over the accident. While a Senior Divisional Engineer, Assistant Engineer, Senior Section Engineer and a Junior Engineer have been suspended, the Chief Track Engineer of the Northern Railway has been transferred. Member (Engineering) in the Railway Board, Northern Railway General Manager and Divisional Regional Manager (Delhi) have been sent on leave, the Railways said.
Over 22 people have been killed so far, Anand Kumar, a senior police officer in UP told news agency ANI. The officer also ruled out any terror angle in the accident. “Prima facie and on the basis of inquiry done so far by ATS (anti-terror squad), there is no evidence of any terror outfit involved in the accident,” he said.
An audio clip of an unverified telephonic conversation, apparently between two railway employees, that hints at “negligence” as cause of the accident will also be probed, he added.
Sources in the engineering division of the Railways claim that they had warned the Khatauli station authorities of repair work being carried out on the tracks. They also claim that they had asked for movement of trains to not be allowed on the stretch for 20 minutes till the tracks were restored.
“We had no knowledge of technical problems,” Rajinder Singh, Station Superintendent, Khatauli told NDTV yesterday, saying they were unaware of maintenance work being carried out on the tracks.
Locals claim human error may have led to the tragedy. Jagat Ram, one of the residents of the house that was damaged when the train crashed into it, had earlier told NDTV that parts of the rail track in the area were being repaired for two days before the day when the accident happened. Locals suspect that the driver of the Utkal Express was not informed about the repair work.
A first information report (FIR) has been filed for causing death by negligence, mischief, and destruction of railway property.
The train had left Puri in Odisha on Friday evening and was scheduled to arrive in Haridwar in Uttarakhand on Sunday. “It was running at a speed of about 100 kmph when the accident took place,” a top Railways official RN Singh said. Six of the derailed coaches were damaged severely.
Rescuers from the National Disaster Response Force or NDRF and various divisions of the police worked with gas cutters and cranes to find survivors from the badly-mangled coaches. Rescue operations ended in the early hours on Sunday.
The Railways has announced a compensation of Rs. 3.5 lakh for the family of those killed, Rs. 50,000 for those seriously injured and Rs. 25,000 for people with minor injuries. State governments of Odisha and Uttar Pradesh have also announced compensation for the victims.