Fear of finding more corpses remains
Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan blamed the “excessive rush of passengers” for the derailment of Upaban Express in Kulaura, Moulvibazar, that killed four people and left scores injured.
Confirming the development and the fatalities, the minister in a regular cabinet meeting on Monday also blamed mismanagement on the Dhaka-Sylhet highway for adding to the pressure of passengers on the rail route.
After the meeting, Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam briefed the media, quoting the minister.
The minister also expressed fears that more corpses may be discovered from underneath the derailed train bogies or carriages.
According to the cabinet secretary, the prime minister has ordered the identification and immediate repair of weak rail bridges.
Five compartments of the Dhaka-bound Upaban Express train derailed around 11:40pm on Sunday, crossing a culvert over the Barochhara Canal at Baramchal in Moulvibazar’s Kulaura upazila. At least 67 people were injured in the accident.
Contacted, Railways Secretary Md Mofazzel Hossain who visited the scene, seconded the minister’s observations.
“It was the excessive pressure of passengers which caused the bogies to veer off the tracks,” he said.
When asked about the condition of the rail bridge concerned, he said although the train bogies skidded off, the bridge did not collapse.
Responding to a query about whether the ministry or the Bangladesh Railway (BR) authorities had identified any primary reason for the accident, the secretary said they have formed a four-member probe body which will find out what led to the accident.
“The committee, led by Railways Chief Mechanical Engineer Md Mizanur Rahman, has been given a three-day deadline to submit his findings. But I hope the committee will be able to complete the task within two days,” he added.
Railway sources said the Upaban Express, which regularly runs with 15 coaches, added two more bogies seeing the huge rush of passengers.
Moulvibazar Civil Surgeon Dr Shahjahan Kabir said: “Of the injured, 20 are in critical condition and undergoing treatment at Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital."
On February 22, 2018, the same train service derailed, snapping rail communication to and from Sylhet to the rest of the country, for nearly 24 hours. Although several people were injured in the accident, no one was killed.
A probe into the incident had revealed the train’s locomotive driver was drowsy, leading to the derailment.
Commenting on the latest accident, National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR) General Secretary, Ashis Kumar Dey, said: “Operational glitches and the carelessness of BR authorities might have caused the accident.”
“This is unfortunate that the route, being a busy one, has witnessed such an accident that killed many,” he added.
The deceased were identified as Manwara Parveen, 45, wife of Bari Mia of Kulaura upazila, Sanjida Akhter, daughter of Md Akram Molla of Mollahat upazila in Bagerhat, Fahmida Yasmin Eva, daughter of Abdul Bari of Daksin Surma upazila of Sylhet, and Md Kawsar from Sunamganj.
Sanjida Akhter and Fahmida Yasmin were both third year students of Sylhet Nursing College.
Two reported missing
Two passengers of the Upaban Express are missing, according to their family members.
The passengers are Dulal Ahmed, 35, from Baliakandi village in Sylhet Sadar upazila, who is an RMG worker in Dhaka, and Abul Kalam, 36, from Boroikandi village in the same upazila.
Dulal’s father, Rashid Ali, told Dhaka Tribune that Dulal was supposed to return to Dhaka on the train on Sunday night, but as of yesterday afternoon, he had not yet reached Dhaka.
His phone is also switched off, Rashid said.
Kalam was also supposed to return to Dhaka on Upaban Express, but had not come back as of yesterday afternoon and his phone was unreachable, his cousin Abdul Ali said.
Both Dulal and Kalam’s family members have looked for them among the injured at MAG Osmani Medical College in Sylhet, but did not find them there.
The Railway authorities were not available for comment.
“At around 5am Monday, rescuers started searching the bogies for trapped or injured passengers,” Deputy Assistant Director Shimul Md Rafi of Habiganj Fire Service and Civil Defence, told reporters at the scene.
He said 11 units were conducting the rescue operation at the scene alongside police and Border Guard Bangladesh personnel, and locals.
Our Sylhet correspondent Md Serajul Islam contributed to this report