Identifying train accident victims will be tough

Monday, July 19, 2010

SAINTHIA - Railway officials may have a tough time identifying the dead in Monday’s train accident in this West Bengal town, as most of the victims were travelling in two unreserved compartments that bore the brunt of the collision.

According to railway officials, three compartments, including the parcel van, of the stationary Vananchal Express was rammed from behind by the Sealdah-bound Uttar Banga Express in the early hours Monday, killing 61 people.

“We have no records of the passengers of the unreserved general compartments. So it will be a problem for us to provide the exact number of passengers present in the two worst affected compartments and also their whereabouts,” said a senior railway official.

This is a throwback to the Gyaneshwari train sabotage incident of May 28 in which 148 people were killed after Maoist guerrillas cut open the pandrol clips used to fix the rail tracks near Jhargram in West Midnapore district.

The remains of the victims of Gyaneshwari Express tragedy kept lying in the mortuaries of two state-run hospitals for over a month for identification through DNA tests.

However, after three rounds of examination, the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) in Kolkata was able to complete DNA profiles of only 15 of the 48 unidentified victims.

“The profiling of the remaining bodies and body parts either could not be done or could be partially done since they were too contaminated,” said CFSL director C.N. Bhattacharya.

The CSFL finally submitted the report before the state government identifying only 15 victims. The state government had to cremate all unidentified victims as the bodies dumped in the hospital mortuaries had begun to rot.

“While identifying the victims we need to be very cautious as both the matter of compensation and human sentiments are attached to it,” said a senior railway official.

“In the Gyaneshwari case five reserved coaches were damaged. So the South Eastern Railways had detailed information regarding the whereabouts of the passengers and also the exact figure of those in the coaches,” he said.

In Monday’s accident, the impact of the collision was so strong that the roof of one of the coaches was flung to the overpass above the stationary train.

“So far nine people have been identified by the hospital authorities but they are yet to announce it as matters of compensation and human sentiments are involved,” said a health official at Suri hospital.

He said of the 61 victims, the bodies of 56 were recovered from the spot. The remaining five were of people who died at the hospital.

“This time also we are expecting that CFSL personnel will be called in for conducting DNA tests for identifying the victims and the bodies will be lying in the hospital for over a month,” said a senior railway officer.

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