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Mobile Ringtones Help Locate Relatives

Mobile Ringtones Help Locate Relatives


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 3: The Bahanaga High School, the nearest big vacant building from the Balasore train accident site in Odisha, was virtually converted into a makeshift mortuary for dumping bodies of the accident victims.

The lifeless bodies lay strewn across the floor as the rescue workers and volunteers dumped the bodies recovered from the mangled train coaches while those still breathing were rushed to the nearby hospitals for immediate medical attention. The sleepy town of Bahanaga has suddenly gained national recognition, but few would have liked to see their town gaining attention in such manner.

There had been constant ringtones coming from the corpses. Surely, their loved ones must have been making desperate calls to ascertain the well-being of their relatives. As desperate relatives scurried through the piles of bodies to identify their known ones, mobile ringtones helped them in locating the bodies.

Asit Maity from East Medinpore district of West Bengal, who had reached the accident site by Friday midnight, was one of the luckiest ones, who did not have to struggle to identify his relatives.

“Five of my fellow villagers were in Coromandel Express. One of them was Bhohlanath Giri who was going to Chennai by the train. Hearing the news of the accident, a group of villagers came to Bahanaga to ascertain what had happened to our five close friends. As I started calling over the phone, one unidentified person answered.  He guided me to Bhola’s body,” said Maity.

Surendra Rout, a local who was involved in the rescue operation, said by 8 p.m. many phones which were intact kept ringing incessantly from the coaches.

Victims were mostly from West Bengal. By the time they reached the spot, the rescue operation was in full swing. However, it was a herculean task for them to go near bodies. Bogies were scattered all over the place. Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force, National Disaster Response Force and Odisha Fire Service personnel worked overtime to retrieve bodies.

Nihar Ranjan Barik, a member of Satyasai Seva Sangathan, Balasore, said, “We shifted more than 70 bodies from the accident sites to the school premise. Initially, we were shocked to see so many corpses. However, as time passed, our emotions vanished and we just carried bodies reflexively.”

Hours after the Odisha train crash, survivors shared horror stories of the moment the trains collided. Sanjay Mukhia, a daily wage worker travelling to Chennai on the Coromandel Express had gone to the toilet when he felt a huge jolt. “Everything was shaking and we could feel the coach toppling,” Mukhia, who is from Bihar, said showing his injuries. He was rescued from the wreckage shortly afterwards.

Visuals from the accident site showed coaches on top of each other and twisted steel, with passengers’ belongings strewn all over. Lines of bodies were collected by rescue workers and more were being extricated from the wreckage.

According to one survivor, severed limbs were scattered over the ripped metal wreckage. “I was sleeping when the train derailed. Some 10-15 people fell over me. When I came out of the coach, I saw limbs scattered all around, a leg here, a hand there…someone’s face was disfigured,” the survivor said.

Mohammad Aqueeb was travelling in a big group of 26 in three coaches. The group mostly included students heading to Kerala. “We were inside the S-4, S-3, S-2 coaches. Suddenly we heard a loud crash and the coaches flipped over. We were all safe,” Aqueeb said.

The group was brought out through the windows of the smashed coaches. “We are lucky to be alive. We don’t want to go anywhere now but back home to Bihar,” he said.

Anubhav Das, a passenger on the Coromandel Express posted a series of tweets describing the accident. “Not to exaggerate but I have myself witnessed more than 200-250 deaths. Families crushed away, limbless bodies and a bloodbath on the train tracks. It was a sight that I will never forget. God help the families. My condolences,” wrote Das.



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