BETTING À DAY
India's worst rail accident in over 20 years happened right outside his home in Balasore. It was as if “the sky fell on us or the earth cracked open”, says Hiranmay Rath.
The aftermath looks like an unimaginable nightmare, full of corpses, body parts and pain.
The student, who was scrolling through Facebook posts, put down his phone and looked up. is rushed outside. There he saw the overturned wagons and the bodies.
“I was scared, I heard shrill screams, which became even louder in a few seconds,” Hiranmay Rath told AFP .
His picturesque yellow house, located near the railway line, is surrounded by coconut and papaya trees. Less than twenty meters away are now the disemboweled carcasses of the trains.
At least 228 people died when, according to local media citing railway officials, a signaling error led to the Coromandal Express, connecting Kolkata to Chennai, on the wrong track. It then collided with a stationary freight train, which in turn led to the derailment of an express train that operated between Bengaluru and Kolkata.
The student, and others, rushed to help the victims. Within hours, the student says he saw more “death and distress” than he could imagine.
“Step on corpses”
< p>“There were severed arms, legs, and even some heads that were partially severed. The unlucky ones died in pain, too much pain,” he says.
With four or five neighbors, he managed to extract a woman dressed in a sari from the wrecked wagon closest to her house.
“A policeman told us to carry her, because 'there was a trickle of life left to her, to a place from where the survivors could be picked up for treatment.'
'She was only asking for water, in a very weak, while we wore it in a long piece of cloth”. “But when we put her on the side of the road, she didn't move and died before our eyes.”
In all, the small group managed to extract 25 people from the wreckage. Some were struggling to breathe, others were already dead.
“There are images I will never forget,” he says. “Imagine looking at – or extracting – the crushed body of a person, a severed arm or leg.”
Ordinarily the delight of his grandfather Bhagwat Prasad Rath, 80, was to sit in the evenings next to the train tracks, to enjoy the fresh air and greenery.
He was not injured in the accident, but had to cross the bloody tracks to return home.
“I had no choice but to walk over dead bodies,” he says. “I took off my flip flops and walked over them praying to God for forgiveness.”
“Horrible and shrill” noise
When day broke at the scene of the tragedy, located in the state of Odisha, it revealed the extent of the destruction.
The red and green wagons were stacked on top of each other or thrown away from the tracks, along which rows of corpses had been laid.
One wagon literally flipped over, crushing the party travelers in shock.
On the floor, amid the metal debris and what used to be the seats, there is a suitcase, a child's shoe, piles of clothes.
< p>Mechanical cranes lift the carcasses, emergency personnel cut through metal in an attempt to reach the still trapped victims, rows of workers from different agencies work along the way, and emergency vehicles block the roads access.
Anubhav Das, 27, a researcher, was in the last carriage of the Coromandal Express. He heard a 'horrible, shrill' noise before the train came to a screeching halt.
He, and his 30 fellow passengers were unharmed and rushed off the train. Outside there was chaos and “awful noises”. “I saw bodies without heads, and others without limbs, bloody bodies,” he said.
He tried to grab what he could find to make bandages . “It was almost like war. I counted 250 bodies and then I stopped counting”. “I saw a man bleeding, his arm severed, and his injured son desperately trying to help him. I saw a family of five, all dead.”
From his home in Cuttack where his father drove him after the accident, he assured AFP: “C It's an absolute miracle to have survived.”