Three survivors of the train accident in Balasore in Odisha have returned to Chennai, even as the Tamil Nadu government is engaged in efforts to identify victims of the mishap but no official report on the injuries or toll pertaining to the state has been received from the Odisha government, Additional chief secretary of the revenue department Kumar Jayant said on Saturday.
Chief Minister M K Stalin reviewed the state of preparedness of the official machinery, especially the medical team, in coping with the situation in providing treatment to the injured when they arrive on June 4.
"About 250 people have moved from Bhadrak towards the south, particularly Chennai, through a special train today. So anybody who is able to travel has moved. We have not got any report on the death of passengers from Tamil Nadu," Jayant said. At present, efforts are on to identified the bodies, he told reporters in Odisha.
"A large number of bodies lay unidentified. We are searching...we don't know where they were going. We are trying to find out the exact numbers. It is not clear how many are from TN. But from the names on the passengers' list, it is obvious that many may not be from our state," said Jayant, who was among the two senior bureaucrats from Tamil Nadu accompanying Youth Welfare and Sports Development Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin and Transport Minister S S Sivashankar at the accident site.
Additional chief secretary of the transport department K Phanindra Reddy is the other senior official who has reached Balasore along with the ministers to coordinate the rescue activities, following instructions from Chief Minister Stalin.
Three passengers of the train crash in Odisha who arrived here on Saturday said the number of deaths in the accident at Balasore is likely to be much higher than known now, as the unreserved compartments were packed, carrying mostly migrant workers to Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Nagendran, who works in Kolkata and hails from Ramanathapuram, was one of the passengers on board the accident hit Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, who arrived at Chennai airport this afternoon. He said, "The second the accident happened, I thought I was going to be dead. I had left Kolkata for Chennai yesterday in Coromandel Express. The accident happened near Balasore."
The Coromandel train driver applied brakes on seeing the goods train and that is why scores of passengers survived, he said. The sleeper and general cars were the worst affected.
"I was in B1 compartment (AC coach). B1 to B4 compartments were unaffected. B5 coach had derailed... Volunteers arrived at the spot first and helped. It was completely dark. We could not see anything clearly...All of us in the AC coaches were in disbelief that when so many people died, we had survived," he said.
A young woman passenger who arrived at the Chennai Airport told mediapersons: "We felt the train derail. The lights began to flicker. There was smoke. I am not sure how many trains were involved. We were scared. Passengers inside the compartment were safe. Some suffered minor injuries. The elderly were removed from the compartment with the help of volunteers," she said.
A student of a city college, Rajalakshmi said she had been to Kolkata for an internship. She remembered the accident as having occurred around 7 pm on June 2, and said that due to the impact of the sudden collision and derailment, passengers in her coach fell down and one man sustained a bleeding injury on his nose.
Several passengers who had travelled in the unreserved compartments appeared to be migrant workers heading to Tamil Nadu or Kerala, she said. "I could see some of them wailing as they lost their dear ones."
Another passenger, Ramesh of Tenkasi district, said the accident was devastating. "The death toll could be on the higher side than being imagined now," he said.
The Tamil Nadu government has established contact with 127 passengers of Train number 12841 - Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express and another five of 12864 Sir Viswesvaraya Terminal-Howrah Superfast Express, said Tamil Nadu Revenue Minister K K S S R Ramachandran.
He told reporters here that an additional team of officials comprising two district revenue officers, three deputy collectors and three tahsildars who are conversant in Hindi and Odia have left to Odisha to coordinate with the officials in the rescue activities.
On its part, the health department in Tamil Nadu has readied about 40 beds in the ICU at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital here and alerted the medical teams in other major hospitals in the city and the periphery to extend medicare to the injured passengers who would arrive on June 4.
"About 100 doctors have been told to remain alert and respond to any emergency," Health Secretary Gagandeep Singh Bedi said.
Earlier in the day, the Tamil Nadu government said it made arrangements to ensure the return of the stranded and injured passengers from Odisha, and a high-level delegation comprising state ministers and officials have been sent to coordinate the rescue and relief activities at the accident site.
Chief Minister Stalin, who visited the control room established at Ezhilagam, Chepauk, here, said, "We are yet to get more details on the number of injured and other particulars. I have sent a rescue team headed by Additional DGP Sandeep Mittal to coordinate with the government there in the rescue activities."
He added: "I spoke to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday night and conveyed my heartfelt condolences on the train accident at Balasore that shocked the nation. I had offered all help from our side," Stalin told reporters at the control room.
The Tamil Nadu government has established helplines on the number 9445869843, toll free no 1070 and Whatsapp no 9445869848 for the affected to contact for help.
Expressing his heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families, the chief minister announced a solatium of Rs 5 lakh to the families of the deceased and Rs 1 lakh to the injured. This will be in addition to the relief of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 10 lakh already announced by the Centre and the railways, he said.
To a question, he replied that hospitals in the state are fully prepared to treat the injured.
Meanwhile, the state government cancelled all official programmes including the centenary celebration of former chief minister and Dravidian stalwart M Karunanidhi today, in view of the train tragedy. The chief minister and officials observed one-minute silence as a mark of respect to the departed souls.
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