Odisha train tragedy: Four lucky Kerala men and the tale of a long, horrific night

The Thrissur residents boarded the train from Shalimar and were on their way home via Chennai when their carriage flipped twice.

BySreerag PS

Published Jun 03, 2023 | 1:32 PMUpdated Jun 03, 2023 | 9:26 PM

Odisha train tragedy: Four lucky Kerala men and the tale of a long, horrific night

The 12841 Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express was cruising smoothly into the night when the carriage suddenly flipped — twice.

The sound of crushing, screeching metal drowned the screams for a few seconds as Kiran, a resident of Thrissur, tried to figure out what he was going through.

He was returning home via Chennai from Kolkata, where he had gone to work along with friends Raghu, Vysakh, and Bineesh, all from Thrissur, Kerala’s cultural capital.

Passengers, several of them injured, and luggage were lying strewn around in the compartment — or what remained of it. In the darkness, Kiran found the emergency exit.

“I broke the emergency exit’s glass with my hand. My arm was bleeding but I managed to push the three others with me, and three Odisha natives through the exit. Despite several attempts, I couldn’t get out through the emergency window. I felt my end was near,” Kiran told South First.

The youngster, however, lived to tell the horrific tale of a multi-train accident near Bahanaga Railway Station in Odisha’s Balasore district that has, so far, claimed 288 lives.

Kiran, however, is among the 1,100 injured passengers. The four Thrissur men — shaken, relieved, and thankful —  are now in the Balasore City Hospital.

ALL UPDATES: More than 288 dead in three-train crash in Odisha

Desperate dash to life

Kiran and his friends now have a real-life tale to narrate to any listening ear throughout their life. They have heard of people facing death. On Friday, 2 June, they experienced it as death danced merrily, snuffing out lives “as flies to wanton boys”.

The four men from Thrissur, who escaped the train tragedy in Balasore,, Odisha. (Supplied)

The four men from Thrissur, who escaped the train tragedy in Balasore, Odisha. (Supplied)

When pushed to a corner, nothing matters. After failing to squeeze himself out through the emergency exit, Kiran looked around and saw a half-opened door.

He made a desperate dash for the door, the only opening that stood between death and life. It took him to the gangway connection to the next compartment.

“The carriage behind ours had broken into two on impact. I rushed to what remained of the compartment in a bid to escape,” he said over the phone.

“While escaping I was stepping on people lying scattered. I was aware of it but I had no choice but to look out for my own safety,” Kiran added.

Related: A look at deadly train accidents — and ministers who resigned

Beacon of hope

Kiran escaped, still, he was unaware of the magnitude of the accident. As if in a trance, he, along with his friends, trudged through a paddy field towards a light they saw at a little distance.

The light was their hope of survival, a beacon signalling the direction of the normal world.

“We might have walked about a kilometre,” Kiran said, oblivious that time and distance get longer in adverse conditions. “On seeing a house, we rushed in, and the people there gave us water and shelter,” he added.

After a while, they returned. By then, the authorities have set up a helpdesk at the accident scene.

They realised the gravity of the situation only after reaching the helpdesk.

“We got to know the magnitude only when we were walking to the helpdesk set up beside the spot,” Kiran added.

The local residents — the first respondents — have clambered up the mangled remains of the two trains and were bring out the passengers — many of them dead, and several others injured — and rushed them to hospitals in whatever available vehicles, including tractors.

Several compartments looked like metal mounds, their silhouettes rising against the dark night.

Related: Passenger on Coromandel Express narrates sequence of events

Malayali Association chips in

The four men are now nursing minor injuries in the Balasore City Hospital.

Kiran has pain in his hand with which he broke the emergency window. He also complained of severe backache. Raghu lost a tooth, and Vysakh’s head has a bulge. His head had hit something when the carriage flipped.

They are all recovering. Besides the hospital staff, the members of the Malayali Association, Odisha wing, too, are taking care of them. It has assigned a bystander to the men.

Association president Chandra Mohan Nair said other Malayalis involved in the accident were not injured.

“There was a three-member family from Kerala, but they are safe and have no injuries. We helped them board the special train to Chennai. We are checking if there were more Malayalis on the trains,” Nair told South First.

He has rushed a team of volunteers to the accident spot to provide all possible help to the injured.