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Basant Kumar

‘90 percent of people in my coach died’: Odisha train survivor recalls horror, demands accountability

“Out of 200 people in my coach, only five or six survived,” said Vrindavan Barik. “Ninety percent of the people in my coach died.”

Barik was in the S2 coach of the Coromandel Express on the night of June 2. At around 7 pm, the Chennai-bound train was involved in a collision with two other trains. 

Barik, who sustained injuries on his head and the left side of his body, said the general coach was brimming with people, especially the connecting spaces between the coaches. “Even S2 and S3 and their connecting space in between was so crowded, you couldn’t even enter. There were easily more than 200 people inside S2.” 

And, he said, only five or six survived. The people crowding the space connecting the coaches were the “first to die”. “They died in large numbers,” he said, adding that many of them were flung out of the train during the accident. 

Notably, these coaches have a capacity of 73-74 seats. 

Demands for accountability 

According to government records, 275 people lost their lives in the accident. However, Barik refused to believe the official death toll. “It isn’t correct in reality,” he insisted. “They have estimated it wrong.” 

Holding the administration and the railway department liable for the negligence leading up to the accident, Barik said, “Coromandel Express was traveling at a speed of 130 km per hour and the line for the goods train was left open. Whatever they did, whether it was a computer or a machine malfunctioning, the person responsible should be immediately suspended.” Railway officials have stated the train was not overspeeding. 

Barik continued, “The root cause of the accident should be investigated. The track should be well made. It should be worthy of a train traveling at 130 km per hour. They shouldn’t have a 130 km/h speed train running on a track that is not worthy. It is not right.” 

Recalling the moments leading to the accident, Barik said, “We realised that the train was derailing and I held onto a railing.” He remembered a “sudden jerk” before the train “leaped up” and overturned. “Even though I was holding the railing, I sustained an injury on my left side.”

In the quiet following the accident, as Barik moved his bag, he saw mangled body parts of people severely injured in the accident. “Someone lost their hand. Somebody’s legs had gotten cut off...Most of them were not in a position to come out of the train.” 

Barik and the few others who survived the accident in his coach climbed out the emergency window. “It took us over 10 minutes to just figure out where the emergency window was.”      

Even though locals helped the victims of the train accident, Barik reached the hospital only around midnight. 

“At that time, there was no Odia or Bengali, Hindu or Muslim. There was no discrimination. Everybody helped as much as they could. Someone took people on their bike, some on a tractor, everyone from everywhere helped,” Barik recalled. “There was a woman, who helped us a lot. Her husband and even her child, who couldn’t speak, brought us water.” 

This report was first published on Newslaundry Hindi. It was translated to English by Nikita Singh.

Newslaundry is a reader-supported, ad-free, independent news outlet based out of New Delhi. Support their journalism, here.

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