Gaisal train disaster
|Date||2 August 1999|
|Injuries||More than 300|
The Gaisal train disaster occurred on 2 August 1999, when two trains carrying approximately 2,500 people collided at the remote station of Gaisal, 310 miles from the city of Guwahati in Assam. The crash involved such high speeds that the trains exploded upon impact, killing at least 290 people.
The crash occurred at about 1:30am on 2 August, when the Avadh Assam Express from New Delhi was stationary at the Gaisal station. Through a signaling error, the Brahmaputra Mail from Dibrugarh was transferred onto the same track as the express train. No one on either train or in the signals and station master's office noticed the error. As a result, Brahmaputra Mail train crashed headlong into the front of the Avadh Assam Express. The engine of the Avadh Assam was thrown high in the air, and passengers from both trains were blown into neighbouring buildings and fields by the force of the explosion.
Three of the four lines at Kishanganj station were non-operational because a doubling of lines was in progress. Only one line was being used to carry the load usually carried by four: 31 trains per day. Track circuiting and interlocking were also not correctly functioning at the station, because of the work in progress. Track circuiting is an electrical procedure by which the station master, and consequently the train driver, can know that the track ahead is occupied. The signals will remain red, interlocking the track, which effectively means that the series of signals cannot be turned green unless the station master allows. The signals can be changed from the relay room which can only be opened by jointly by the station master and the signal inspector. In such a situation, the points in the track have to be set manually by the "cranking" procedure. A crank handle, available at stations, has to be rotated manually on the orders of the station master for setting the points which are then clamped and locked. The entire process takes around 30 minutes.
Assistant Station Master (ASM) of Kishanganj station, S P Chandra, later admitted to sending the Awadh-Assam Express on the wrong (down) line, causing it to collide with the Brahmaputra Mail on August 1[clarification needed], first presented by a preliminary inquiry report of Chief Commissioner Railway Safety (CCRS). Immediately after the incident Chandra absconded and was arrested in Katihar on August 10.
The line was blocked by wreckage, and the Gaisal emergency services were utterly overwhelmed, as fire swept through the ruined vehicles and station buildings, killing many of the injured people trapped in the trains. Many vehicles and aid support services had to undertake the 14-hour drive from Calcutta to reach the site, by which time many of those they could have helped were already dead. Those who were picked up by rescuers were taken to hospitals in Kishanganj and Islampur, which were also overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster.
Heavy rains helped dampen fires the following day, and rescue workers began trying to separate the twelve mangled carriages of the train and identify the bodies contained inside. Many were unrecognizable and never identified.
The official death toll released was set at 285 killed and over 300 injured in the crash. Unofficial totals have claimed that over 1000 or even more were killed, including 90 soldiers. This is possible because although there were only 72 seats in each of the seven general compartments that were involved in the accident, all of them were crowded far beyond capacity. Moreover, there were many ticketless travelers who were not included in the official count. Because of the nature of the crash and fire, as well as the large number of ticketless people who may have been on the trains, the bodies could not be separately identified. There has also been speculation that explosives carried on the military train may have been the cause of the explosion following the impact, rather than the trains themselves. This has been denied by the Indian military, but has remained a controversial issue.
The station master of Gaisal later committed suicide.
Other Indian rail disasters
- "Gaisal train disaster due to 'human failure'". hindu.com. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
- Shaishav. "Worst train accidents in India". 43blogtips.com. Archived from the original on 21 January 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
- "Six railwaymen punished for Gaisal train mishap". www.hindustantimes.com. Archived from the original on 30 September 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
- "Gaisal Tragedy -- Kishanganj ASM says he sent train on wrong track". www.financialexpress.com. Archived from the original on 17 December 2013. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
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