Eighteen passengers were killed and more than 80 injured when the engine and four coaches of a Sawantwadi-bound passenger train derailed near Nidi station, about 135 km away from Mumbai.
“Eighteen lives have been lost in the tragedy,” Maharashtra home minister RR Patil told the media after visiting the accident site. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, meanwhile, expressed “deep shock” over the train tragedy.
The train derailed outside the Bhise tunnel, near Medha village between Nagothane and Roha stations at 9.25am.
Severity of the accident increased as two coaches along with engine were capsized in derailment, while rest two coaches were tilted.
Patil said the derailment may have occurred due to technical problems. “We are giving all possible help to the victims’ families and providing medical attention to the injured.”
The railway ministry announced an ex-gratia of Rs.200,000 to the families of the deceased, Rs.50,000 to those grievously injured and Rs.10,000 to those with minor injuries.
The injured were rushed to hospitals in Nagothane and Roha in Raigad district.
Central Railway officials said relief and rescue trains were sent to the accident site from Thane and Mumbai. Work was on to remove the derailed bogies and engine to clear the tracks.
Passenger and goods trains traffic on the Konkan Railway network has been paralysed, an official spokesperson said in Mumbai. Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge ordered an investigation into the accident.
Several long distance trains on Konkan and Central rail network have been cancelled, terminated ahead of destination or diverted.
Konkan Railway has made arrangements for special buses to ferry thousands of passengers, mostly vacationers either bound to and from Goa and Kerala, to reach various destinations.
Meanwhile, massive traffic snarls were reported at various points on the usually busy Mumbai-Goa highway following the derailment.
Many of the stranded passengers complained that there were no alternate forms of transport available and that private buses, cabs and autos fleeced them.
The country’s underfunded rail network — one of the world’s largest — has a notoriously bad safety record but remains the main form of long-distance travel. The worst rail accident in India was in 1981 when a train plunged into a river in Bihar, killing an estimated 800 people.
Konkan railway and Central railway has announced following helpline numbers for information: CST-022-22694090, Dadar-022-24114836, Thane-02225334840, Panvel-27468833, Ratnagir-02352-228176 / 228951 / 228954, Belapur-022-27561721 / 23 / 24