Kuneru (Vizianagaram): A small 15-inch gap in the rail line proved to be a death trap for 42 passengers on board the Jagadalpur-Bhuvaneswar Hirakhund Express which met with an accident near Kuneru railway station under Komarada mandal of Vizianagaram district, about 160km from Visakhapatnam, in the zero hours of Saturday/Sunday.
The narrow gap that disconnected the rail line was suspected to have led the train to jump off the track and a few bogies tossed up in the air and rolled over to the adjacent track. The dislocation of the rail line, however, remains to be a mystery.
Even as the railway top-brass blamed it on sabotage, pointing accusing fingers at the Left Wing extremists on the ground that the accident site falls under the Maoist-infested region on the Andhra-Odisha border, insiders ruled it out. “The tongue rail was broken, leaving a 15-inch gap on the track. The gap was found to be the cause for the bloody accident,’’ said Chandralekha Mukherjee, Waltair divisional railway manager.
Chandralekha was quick to add, “I cannot rule out a sabotage angle at this juncture since the prima facie evidence suggests that the track was found to be intact until a few minutes before the mishap’’. In the same breath, she said the commissioner of railway safety will hold an inquiry to zero in on the exact cause for the accident. “Our main focus right now is extending relief to the victims and restoration of traffic on the route, she said.
Kuneru station happened to be a notorious past of Maoist violence during the last one decade. The Maoists allegedly blasted the railway station and shot dead four RPF personnel at the same place in the past. Incidentally, the station is located on the peripheries of the Maoist-dominated agency area. The railway top brass allude to these factors in a bid to substantiate the sabotage theory.
A goods train ran on the route at 9.05 pm and the track supervisor inspected the Kuneru section at 10.45 pm and the accident took place in a span of 40 minutes later. The supervisor soon after the inspection certified that the track was intact. The second goods train which arrived at 10.52 was halted at Kuneru railway station to make way for the Hirakund Express and the accident reportedly occurred between 11.15 pm and 11.25 pm.
Moreover, the track was being thoroughly subjected to sanitization from security point of view ahead of the visit of Umesh Singh, general manager, East Coast Railways, in the next 10 days. The technical personnel from the railways however offer a different view point, contradicting the sabotage angle. “It will take not less than an hour for any saboteur to cut the line.
The track was last monitored by the supervisor at 10-45pm and the accident occurred sometime between 11-15pm-11-25pm. It is highly impossible for involvement of sabotage in this short duration”, a technical officer told The Hands India requesting anonymity at the accident site. Meanwhile, the train was travelling at a speed of 55kmph at the time of the accident. Normally express trains run at a speed of 110 kmph in the section.