WB train tragedy: Death toll at 10, services limp back to normal after tracks cleared of debris

Restoration work underway near the accident site a day after the collision between the Kanchanjunga Express and a goods train, near Rangapani railway station, Tuesday, June 18, 2024.
Restoration work underway near the accident site a day after the collision between the Kanchanjunga Express and a goods train, near Rangapani railway station, Tuesday, June 18, 2024.

Jalpaiguri/Kolkata | The death of a six-year-old girl on Tuesday morning took the official toll in the Kanchanjunga Express tragedy to 10, even as her parents remained admitted at the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital (NBMCH) battling for their lives, officials said.

The victim, Sneha Mondal, was admitted to the hospital in a “critical condition” on Monday following the accident at Phansidewa in Darjeeling district in the northern part of the state involving the Sealdah-bound Dn Kanchanjunga Express and a goods train which claimed at least nine other lives. While eight bodies were brought to the state-run NBMCH in the accident aftermath, two persons died during the course of treatment, an official said.

“The girl suffered fractures in her legs and also had liver and spleen injuries. She succumbed while undergoing treatment," Dr Sandip Sengupta, NBMCH's dean of student affairs, told PTI-Video.

Thirty-seven people were admitted to the hospital on Monday, he said, adding that two of them were discharged after primary treatment.

“Three persons are still in the trauma care unit. They underwent surgery. A few patients have fractures. Most of them have superficial injuries. Our challenge is to send them home in good health. Our team is working tirelessly,” Sengupta said.

In Kolkata, the body of a victim packed in a coffin was brought back from Siliguri and handed over to grieving relatives on Tuesday.

The body of Railway Mail Service employee Shankar Ghosh, a passenger in the parcel van of the ill-fated Kanchanjunga Express, was handed over to relatives at his Phoolbagan residence in east Kolkata in the presence of mayor Firhad Hakim who condoled the death.

Relatives said that Ghosh was working on extension post-retirement and that the train was ironically his favourite for regular visits to north Bengal on work.

Destiny also played a cruel role for 31-year-old Subhajit Mali, a resident of Jamir Lane in south Kolkata’s Ballygunge area, who succumbed to his injuries from the accident.

Father to an 11-year-old, Mali had planned to return home earlier than scheduled from Siliguri to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.

The victim’s body, officials said, was also despatched from north Bengal, and is scheduled to reach his traumatized relatives on Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, train services on both the up and down lines at Rangapani near the New Jalpaiguri station were fully restored on Tuesday afternoon, railway authorities stated.

“Electrical traction was restored at the accident site and trains with electric locomotives have started plying on the stretch,” Divisional Railway Manager of Katihar S Kumar said.

He also informed that trains were moving through the accident spot with speed restrictions, following repair of the tracks and other components.

The collision had caused extensive damage to tracks and electric traction poles at the accident site neighbourhood.

Operations on the down line using both electric and diesel locomotives were restored on Monday night while diesel locomotive-run train services in the up line had resumed from Tuesday morning, officials said.

Despite the resumption of railway operations, at least six long-distance trains including the Howrah-NJP Shatabdi Express were cancelled on Tuesday while the timing of a few others were altered.

Several passenger trains, including New Delhi-Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express, Darjeeling Mail, Kamrup Express and Padatik Express, were also diverted along different routes as a result of the in-progress restoration work at the accident site.

Earlier in the day, the unaffected coaches of Kanchanjunga Express, which began their onward journey from the accident site on Monday afternoon, reached Sealdah station with nearly 850 passengers, according to an Eastern Railway official.

“Around 800 to 850 passengers arrived at Sealdah at 3.16 am,” ER spokesperson Kausik Mitra said.

The train which was scheduled to reach Sealdah at 7.20 pm on Monday, arrived eight hours behind schedule.

The passengers were provided with medical facilities, food, and water at various stations, including Malda Town and Sealdah, he added.

Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim, West Bengal Transport Minister Snehasis Chakraborty, and Divisional Railway Manager of Sealdah Division Deepak Nigam were present at Sealdah station to help passengers reach home safely, Mitra said.

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