Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu today directed Chairman, Railway Board, to fix responsibility on prima facie evidence by today only into the derailment of the Utkal Express in Uttar Pradesh. 23 people died and 156 were injured after 14 coaches of the Utkal Express derailed near Muzaffarnagar in western Uttar Pradesh yesterday evening.
In a tweet, Mr Prabhu said that he is monitoring the situation closely and restoration of tracks is his top priority. The minister directed senior officials and medical personnel to provide assistance to injured passengers and all possible help to relatives of affected passengers.
Mr Prabhu had ordered an inquiry into the derailment yesterday. He said he was personally monitoring the situation and strict action will be taken in case of any lapse.
Affected rail route is expected to be cleared and traffic is likely to be restored by 7 this evening. Meanwhile, all the trains on the Ambala-Meerut- Saharanpur line will be cancelled or diverted. About 12 passenger trains have been diverted and three trains have been cancelled following the accident. Of 23 causalities 11 have been identified. Of them five were from Gwalior and Muraina districts of Madhya Pradesh and six were from Saharanpur, Agra and Muzaffarnagar districts of Uttar Pradesh. A total 156 injured are admitted in different hospitals of Muzaffarnagar and Meerut. State Government has released the list of injured.
Our correspondent reports that NDRF, ATS and PAC have completed search and rescue operations at the accident site. Railway authorities have started restoration works. Rerailing device and a full scale ART have reached at the site. In view of any suspect terror module behind the derailment a team of ATS of state police has been put for investigation.
The minister also announced 3.5 rupees lakh ex-gratia compensation for those who lost their lives, 50,000 for the seriously injured and 25,000 for those who received minor injuries.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has also announced financial assistance of two lakh rupees each for the kin those killed and 50,000 for the injured.
Muzaffarnagar administration has opened a helpline and the numbers are 0131-243-6918, 0131-243-6103 and 0131-243-6564. Haridwar railway station has also set up a helpline number. The number is 9760-534-054. Meerut Police Helpline numbers are 945-440-1587, 945-441-7431 and 0121-264-8623.
President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have expressed sadness over the incident. In a tweet, Mr Kovind said, his thoughts are with the deceased and their families. Mr Modi said, the Railway Ministry and the UP government are doing everything and providing all assistance required.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi has also expressed pain at the derailment. She called upon Pradesh Congress and party workers to provide assistance to the affected families.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced ex-gratia of five lakh rupees each to the next of the kin of Odia passengers killed in the derailment. A statement from the Chief Minister’s office said, Mr Patnaik also announced 50,000 rupees for those injured. The Chief Minister spoke to Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and sought his assistance for the rescue of the passengers. He also asked the state’s commerce and transport department to work in coordination with the railways and Uttar Pradesh government to provide help to the injured persons and the kin of the deceased.