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15 dead, 60 injured as goods train rams into Kanchanjunga Express in West Bengal

NEW JALPAIGURI/KOLKATA, JUNE 17: At least 15 passengers died and 60 others were injured, after 3 rear coaches of the stationary Sealdah-bound Kanchanjunga Express derailed on Monday morning as a goods train collided with it in West Bengal’s Darjeeling district, officials said.
The toll could rise, as multiple agencies of the State and Centre were simultaneously working on war footing along with locals to rescue passengers who could still be trapped inside, they said.
The deceased include the pilot and co-pilot of the goods train and the guard of the passenger train, a senior railway official said.
The injured were being shifted to the North Bengal Medical College and Hospital, police said.
The 3 rear compartments derailed under the impact of the collision from behind by the locomotive of the goods train near Rangapani station, about 30 km from North Bengal’s New Jalpaiguri station, the official said.
In a post on X, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the “railway accident in West Bengal is saddening. Condolences to those who lost their loved ones”.
“I pray that the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to officials and took stock of the situation. Rescue operations are underway to assist the affected. The Railways Minister Shri @AshwiniVaishnaw Ji is on the way to the site of the mishap as well”, he said.
Meanwhile, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who on Monday left for West Bengal to take stock of relief operations following the train accident, announced ex-gratia compensation to the victims.
While Rs 10 lakh would be given to the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 2.5 lakh would be provided to the grievously injured and Rs 50,000 to those with minor injuries, Vaishnaw posted on X.
According to preliminary information received from Railway officials, the passenger train was stationary on the tracks when the goods train rammed into it from behind.
While 2 rear compartments of the Kanchanjunga Express were immediately thrown off the tracks under the severe impact, another bogie was seen precariously hanging mid-air with the engine of the goods train tucked underneath.
Inclement weather in the region posed an additional challenge to the rescue operations, the officials said.
The accident triggered haunting memories of the Coromandel Express disaster near Bahanaga Bazar in Odisha a year ago, which killed nearly 300 people and injured over a 1,000 others.
The 13174 Kanchanjunga Express was bound for Sealdah from Agartala when the accident occurred around 9 a.m., the railway official said.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, in a post on X, said: “Shocked to learn, just now, about a tragic train accident, in the Phansidewa area of Darjeeling district. While details are awaited, Kanchenjunga Express has reportedly been hit by a goods train.”
“DM, SP, doctors, ambulances and disaster teams have been rushed to the site for rescue, recovery, and medical assistance. Action on war-footing initiated”, she added.
Governor C V Ananda Bose and Banerjee are scheduled to visit the train accident site later in the day to oversee relief operations and meet the injured, an official said.
“The Governor and the Chief Minister is going to visit the accident spot in New Jalpaiguri to take stock of the relief operations”, the official told PTI.
Railway officials, meanwhile, confirmed that the ill-fated Kanchanjunga Express has begun its journey to Kolkata with passengers in the unaffected coaches.
“The train has started from the accident site around 12.40 p.m. and is expected to reach Sealdah at 8 p.m.”, Kaushik Mitra, CPRO, Eastern Railway, told reporters.
Long-distance train services from north Bengal and the Northeastern part of the country were affected due to the accident.
Eastern Railway officials in Kolkata said route diversions of several long-distance trains were being made through the Siliguri-Bagdogra-Aluabari zone instead of their usual route, as the tracks remained blocked at the accident site.
Among the trains diverted were the Guwahati-Saraighat Express, Guwahati-Bengaluru Express, NJP-Howrah Vande Bharat, Kamrup Express and Uttarbanga Express, the officials said.
State Government officials said additional bus services were being introduced from the region on an emergency basis to transport the affected commuters.
Preliminary reports from the ground suggested that the loco pilot of the goods train may have overshot its signal. No confirmation was, however, received on whether there were problems with the signaling system or explanations given on how the 2 trains could come so close to each other on a single track.
BJP MP from Darjeeling Raju Bista was among the leaders who rushed to the spot to oversee rescue operations.
A passenger from Agartala, who was in coach number S6 of the Kanchanjunga Express, said he felt a sudden jerk and the compartment screeched to a halt.
He also claimed that the relief and rescue operations were delayed.
“My wife, child and I somehow managed to come out of the mangled coach. We are currently stranded… The rescue operations also started quite late”, the passenger told a television channel. (PTI)