Train accident: Kanchanjunga Express collides with goods train near Bengal’s New Jalpaiguri


PTI, Jun 17, 2024, 10:33 AM IST

Credit: ANI / X

New Jalpaiguri/Kolkata: At least 15 passengers died and 60 others were injured, after three rear coaches of the stationary Sealdah-bound Kanchanjunga Express derailed on Monday morning as a goods train collided with it in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district, officials said.

The toll could rise, as multiple agencies of the state and Centre were simultaneously working on war footing along with locals to rescue passengers who could still be trapped inside, they said.

The deceased include the pilot and co-pilot of the goods train, a senior railway official said.

The injured are being taken to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, police said.

The three rear compartments derailed under the impact of the collision from behind by the locomotive of the goods train near Rangapani station, about 30 km from North Bengal’s New Jalpaiguri station, the official said.

In a post on X, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the “railway accident in West Bengal is saddening. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones”.

“I pray that the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to officials and took stock of the situation. Rescue operations are underway to assist the affected. The Railways Minister Shri @AshwiniVaishnaw Ji is on the way to the site of the mishap as well,” he said.

The PM also announced that an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh would be given to the next of kin of each deceased, while the injured would be provided Rs 50,000.

Meanwhile Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Monday left for West Bengal to take stock of relief operations following the train accident.

According to preliminary information received from rail officials, the passenger train was stationary on the tracks when the goods train rammed into it from behind.

While two rear compartments of the Kanchanjunga Express were immediately thrown off the tracks under the severe impact, another bogie was seen precariously hanging mid-air with the engine of the goods train tucked underneath.

Inclement weather in the region posed an additional challenge to the rescue operations, the officials said.

The accident triggered haunting memories of the Coromandel Express disaster near Bahanaga Bazar in Odisha a year ago, which killed nearly 300 people and injured over a 1,000 others.

The 13174 Kanchanjunga Express was bound for Sealdah from Agartala when the accident occurred around 9 am, the railway official said.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in a post on X, said: “Shocked to learn, just now, about a tragic train accident, in the Phansidewa area of Darjeeling district. While details are awaited, Kanchenjunga Express has reportedly been hit by a goods train.

“DM, SP, doctors, ambulances and disaster teams have been rushed to the site for rescue, recovery, and medical assistance. Action on war-footing initiated,” she added.

Long-distance train services from north Bengal and the northeastern part of the country were affected due to the accident.

State government officials said additional bus services were being introduced from the region on an emergency basis to transport the affected commuters.

Preliminary reports from the ground suggested that the loco pilot of the goods train may have overshot its signal.

No confirmation was, however, received on whether there were problems with the signaling system or explanations given on how the two trains could come so close to each other on a single track.

BJP MP from Darjeeling Raju Bista was among the leaders who rushed to the spot to oversee rescue operations.

A passenger from Agartala, who was in coach number S6 of the Kanchanjunga Express, said he felt a sudden jerk and the compartment screeched to a halt.

He also claimed that the relief and rescue operations were delayed.

“My wife, child and I somehow managed to come out of the mangled coach. We are currently stranded… The rescue operations also started quite late,” the passenger told a television channel.

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