Three days after the tragic rail accident in Brahmanbaria, a Rangpur-bound passenger train derailed in Ullapara of Sirajganj yesterday noon.
Nine compartments of Rangpur Express, including its engine and power car, derailed in the Ullapara Railway Station area around 2:00pm and a fire broke out in three of its compartments, said Rafikul Islam, stationmaster of the railway station.
At least eight people, including a locomotive driver, were injured and rushed to Ullapara Upazila Health Complex, said Monjil Haque, deputy assistant director of Sirajganj district fire brigade, who conducted a rescue operation.
“The fire might have originated from the power car,” he added.
Six units of fire fighters from Sirajganj and adjoining areas took part in the rescue operation and brought the fire under control within two hours.
Locals alleged that the accident happened due to wrong signal.
“Rangpur Express is a metre-gauge train and always runs on the track number one. Today [yesterday], the train was running on track number two,” said Biplob Hossain, who lives right beside the rail station.
Railway authorities, however, denied the allegation and said they would make comment on the issue only after conducting probes. Three probe committees were formed to investigate the accident.
Abdulla Al Mamun, divisional transportation officer of Bangladesh Railway’s Paksey division, said, “Signals were completely fine and the accident did not happen due to wrong signals. There might be some other reason behind the train derailment.”
Rail connection from Dhaka to northern districts and Dhaka to southern districts were interrupted for an indefinite period as the rail line was massively damaged due to the accident, he added.
“A rescue engine arrived around 5:00pm from Ishwardi and started working. We are trying to reestablish rail connection within the shortest possible time,” he said.
Talking to The Daily Star, some of the passengers of the train shared their experiences.
Raihan Hossain, a passenger of the train, told The Daily Star that air-conditioned compartments of the train were filled with smoke as soon as the fire broke out.
“We were having suffocation. Some locals broke glasses of our compartment and rescued many,” he said, adding, “People started running here and there after they were out of the train.”
Another passenger of the train Liton Hossain said, “It was a horrific experience.”
Most of the passengers who were unharmed headed towards their destinations on buses and other vehicles, he added.
ANOTHER TRAIN NARROWLY ESCAPES ACCIDENT
Meanwhile, Chattola Express narrowly escaped an accident on Murapara-Kaliajuri rail lines in Cumilla yesterday, reports our correspondent in the district.
Around 5:30pm, a sand-laden truck turned turtle on a rail track. Three youths -- Kamrul Hasan, Rasedul Hasan and Ripon -- were crossing the spot then. Seeing the train coming towards the flipped truck, they signaled the train to stop, said Shah Imran, a witness of the incident.
The driver of Chattola Express seeing the signal deployed the emergency brakes and stopped the train in time.
Rail communication resumed after the truck was removed about an hour and a half later.
NO INFRASTRUCTURE TO INSTALL ANTI-COLLISION DEVICES
Meanwhile, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said the existing railway infrastructure did not allow installation of anti-collision devices to avert accidents.
He, however, said they took initiative to introduce the technology in new trains.
“Existing signal system, locomotives, and carriage are not fit for using this technology. But we are trying to introduce the technology,” he said while replying to a query at the Rail Bhaban yesterday.
The issue of automatic anti-collision device came to the forefront after Turna Nishita ignored a red light and rammed Udayan Express in Kasba of Brahmanbaria on November 12. The incident left 16 people dead.
The devices have been introduced in India.
The minister said they would get all three probe reports on the accident next week and implement recommendations made in the reports to prevent accidents.
When asked whether the driver was over worked, the minister said, “It is not true. He got enough rest.”
The minister said both the train drivers were informed about the crossing but Turna Nishita driver failed to follow the signal.
He also said usually trains are at 70-75kmph there but when the accident happened their speed was around 20kmph.
“So primarily we are assuming that the driver was not sleeping as he slowed down the train. But we do not know the reason yet.”
Between 2013 and May this year, 115 people were killed and 295 others injured in train-related accidents across the country, according to railway sources.
B’BARIA TRAIN ACCIDENT PROBE HAMPERED
Investigation into the Brahmanbaria train accident is hampered as the loco-master of Turna Express remained missing and no statement of Mandabag stationmaster could be recorded, reports our correspondent.
Mitu Mariam, chief of the probe committee constituted by the district administration and additional deputy magistrate, told this to The Daily Star yesterday.
The probe committee is scrutinising the weather condition and signal system during the accident, she said.