Chennai: Friday’s Amritsar’s train tragedy is similar to the one that happened in 1986 in Kerala’s Thalaserry, where an Express train ran through revellers, leaving several dead and injured in its trail, recalled a senior journalist here on Saturday. “I was 20 and working in a private company. The rail track was at a height. It was festival time at the Sri Jagannatha Temple in Thalaserry,” P.Rajan, working at the Evening Tamil Nadu, told IANS.
It was around midnight and people sat on the railway tracks watching the fireworks display. “For people on the track, the approaching train from one side would not be visible as the track was curvy. The fire crackers were very loud, and so were the crowds,” he said.
“I was standing down near the shops. Around midnight there was to be a special fireworks called ‘karbam kalaki’, which meant that the sound is such that pregnant women would suffer miscarriage,” Rajan said.
Boisterous people on the railway tracks enjoying the deafening fireworks could not hear the siren of the oncoming train. “Suddenly, I could hear loud shrieks, and people wailing. People’s body parts lay scattered. People started running behind the train and I also followed them. The train stopped at the station. The front of the engine was smeared with blood and flesh,” Rajan recalled.
“My clothes were also smeared with blood and flesh. I was shocked. For two days, I was not able to eat,” he said. According to reports, 26 people lost their lives, and several others were injured. The negligence that led to the Amritsar tragedy was also the reason behind the Thalaserry train accident.
The festival organisers had that year forgotten to inform the railway authorities about the Sri Jagannatha Temple festivities and the accompanying fireworks. “Yesterday, I saw some video clippings of a train mowing down people in Amritsar. It was the same scene that I had witnessed several years ago – the noise of the firecrackers, a blue train running over people, and the resultant wailing. I started shaking and was not able to send any mobile message, as my hands were trembling,” Rajan said.
A Southern Railway official also recalled the accident and told IANS that the Amritsar accident was identical to the one that had happened in Thalaserry. “Accidents teach us a lesson that such mistakes should not be repeated. I hope the authorities will at least learn some lesson now,” Rajan said.
On Friday, a 700-strong crowd watching a huge Ravan effigy go up in flames amid exploding crackers spilled on to the tracks at Jora Phatak when the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU passenger train heading to Hoshiarpur from Amritsar came hurtling down around 7 p.m.
In just 10-15 seconds, it left behind a heap of crushed and dismembered bodies. Video clips posted on the social media showed some people who had apparently seen the approaching train try to run away. At least 60 Dussehra revellers lost their lives.