‘Too much pain’: the carnage of India’s train crashArchive
BALASORE: When India’s worst train accident in more than 20 years happened just outside his home, Hiranmay Rath said it felt “like the sky was falling on us or the earth was cracking open”.
What followed was an unimaginable nightmare of corpses, body parts and suffering.
The college student stopped scrolling Facebook on his phone and rushed outside, to be confronted by the sight of bodies falling out of toppled carriages.
“I came out scared and heard loud wailing screams, which only got louder within seconds,” Rath said.
His picturesque yellow home next to the railway is surrounded by coconut and papaya trees — and less than 20 metres away lay the mangled wreckage of a train crash that killed at least 288 people and injured hundreds more.
First one express train derailed, then a second smashed into the wreckage and hit a third, parked train. Rath is not clear on the exact sequence of events, but he and other residents rushed to try to help the victims.
Over the next few hours he saw “more death and grief” than he could have “ever imagined”. It was a “horror show” that he “couldn’t have imagined watching even in the most scary movie ever”.
“There were severed arms, legs, and even some partially severed heads — while the unluckier ones died in pain, too much pain,” he said. He and four or five neighbours managed to pull one sari-clad woman out of the toppled carriage closest to his house.
“A police official told us to carry her, as she still had some life, to a common area from where survivors could be transported for treatment.
“She just kept asking for water in a very weak voice as we carried her on a long piece of cloth.
“The moment we placed her on the side of the road, she lost all movement and died in front of our eyes.” In all, his group pulled around 25 people out of the wreckage — some of them struggling to breathe, many of them already dead.
“These are images I’ll never forget,” he added. “Imagine watching — or pulling out — a person’s squished body, one severed arm or a leg.”
His grandfather Bhagwat Prasad Rath, 80, regularly sits next to the railway tracks in the evening to enjoy the fresh air and greenery.
He was not hurt in the accident but had to cross the tracks to get back home.
“There was no way but to walk over dead bodies,” he said. “I took off my flip-flops and walked over them while praying to god for forgiveness.”
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2023