Andhra Pradesh train accident: Initial probe points finger at Rayagada passenger crew; death toll rises to 14

Andhra Pradesh CM YS Jagan Mohan Reddy to visit the accident site and those undergoing treatment in Vizianagaram.

BySouth First Desk

Published Oct 30, 2023 | 12:03 PMUpdatedOct 30, 2023 | 7:22 PM

One of the derailed compartments in the Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh on 29 October, 2023.

A preliminary railway probe into the Sunday night, 29 October, accident in Andhra Pradesh has held the driver and the assistant driver of Rayagada Passenger train responsible for the collision as it passed two defective auto signals violating norms. Both crew members were killed in the accident.

The Rayagada Passenger train hit the Visakhapatnam Palasa train from behind at 7 pm on Sunday, October 29, on the Howrah-Chennai line in Kantakapalli in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh.

The number of dead in the accident has gone up to 14, Vizianagaram Joint Collector Mayur Ashok said on Monday, October 30. “Thirteen died at the accident site itself and one succumbed while undergoing treatment,” he said. Around 50 passengers were injured in the collision.

Signed by seven experts, the preliminary report said they carefully examined the accident site, available evidence, statements of officials concerned, data logger report and the speedometer chart.

It concluded that the Rayagada passenger train (08504) hit the Visakhapatnam Palasa passenger train (08532) from the rear due to the crew of the former passing two defective auto signals.

“Hence, LP (loco pilot) S M S Rao, ALP (Assistant Loco Pilot) Chiranjeevi, of train no 08504 (Rayagada Passenger train) held responsible,” the report, accessed by PTI, said. Both S M S  Rao and Chiranjeevi, along with guard of Palasa passenger, M S Rao, were killed in the accident.

According to the railway norm, the train should have stopped for two minutes at the defective auto signals and then started at 10 kmph which it didn’t do, leading to the collision, the report said.

Three coaches were derailed in the collusion that occurred at Kantakapalli, some 40 km from Vishakhapatnam.

Related: From PM to CM to political leaders, condolences pour in

CM Jagan meets the injured

AP CM YS Jagan meets the injured in the train accident.

AP CM YS Jagan meets the injured in the train accident. (Screengrab)

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy on Monday visited the train accident victims at the Vizianagaram Government General Hospital and enquired about their treatment and facilities.

Accompanied by Education Minister Botcha Satyanarayana, Vizianagaram district collector S Nagalakshmi and others, the chief minister inspected the treatment facilities and went around talking to the victims.

“Are they taking good care of you? Is the doctor taking care of you,” Reddy asked a victim who suffered a leg injury and proceeded to talk to two minor girls and their mother undergoing treatment. He spent almost an hour with several patients.

Earlier, Reddy shelved his plan to visit the accident site to avoid delaying track restoration work and directly proceeded to the hospital where several survivors are undergoing treatment.

“On the request of the Railway officials, the CM will go directly to the hospital instead of inspecting the scene at the train accident spot… Railway officials appealed that if the CM comes to the spot, there is a possibility that the track restoration work will be delayed,” said a note shared by the CMO with PTI.

The coaches involved in the mishap were removed and track restoration work was taken up on a war-footing.

Also read: Odisha train accident: CBI charge sheet against 3 rail officials 

Train passes on affected line

Prasad told PTI that five coaches plus the locomotive were mangled in the crash. Three coaches were of the Palasa passenger and two coaches and the locomotive were of the Rayagada passenger, the DRM said.

Prasad said four Overhead Equipment masts, and railway electrical infrastructure, were damaged, affecting all three lines.

Following the accident, several trains have either been cancelled or diverted, or rescheduled by East Coast Railway and South Central Railway.

Meanwhile, the East Coast Railway posted on X that the first passenger carrying train 18463 Bhubaneswar-Bangalore Prashanti Exp passed on affected line at 1436hrs.

Rising death toll

Biswajit Sahu, Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) of the ECoR, on Sunday night, had said at least nine people were killed in the incident. However, the death toll on Monday morning rose to 14.

According to the information provided by Vizianagaram Collector S Nagalakshmi, at least 50 people were injured.

“Twenty-seven injured people are being treated at the Vizianagaram Government Hospital,” Jayram, Senior Publicity Inspector, told South First on Monday, 30 October.

“Out of the injured, three sustained serious injuries. Others will be discharged today. The 50 injured included passengers who had already left the hospital after treatment,” he added.

Expressing shock over the incident, Jagan instructed officials to pay an ex-gratia of ₹10 lakh each to the kin of the deceased and ₹2 lakh each to the injured from Andhra Pradesh.

He also announced a compensation of ₹2 lakh each for the kin of the deceased and ₹50,000 each for the injured from other states, according to an official release.

The ECR has set up helplines.

Also read: Odisha crash among deadliest railway accidents. A look at other tragedies 

Kharge takes jibe at Union govt

Meanwhile, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge hit out at the Modi government on Monday, saying the enthusiasm shown in flagging off trains with fanfare should also be shown in ensuring the safety and well-being of train passengers.

In a post on X, Kharge said, “Extremely saddened to learn about the train derailment tragedy in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh, where precious lives have been lost and several people have suffered injuries.”

“Our deepest condolences to the families of the bereaved. We pray for the speedy recovery of the injured,” he said and requested the Congress workers to provide every possible help.

“It seems that all the claims of safety by the Union government, post the Balasore train tragedy have evaporated in thin air,” he said.

“The same enthusiasm of flagging trains with fanfare and propaganda should also be shown in action towards railway safety and the well-being of crores of daily passengers,” Kharge said.

Also read: Why farmers in Andhra are switching from mango to date palm cultivation

Human error?

The ECoR officials on Sunday said a human error could have resulted in the collision of two trains.

“Likely reason: Human error. Overshooting of the signal by Visakhapatnam-Rayagada passenger train,” ECoR CPRO Biswajit Sahoo told reporters in Bhubaneswar.

While explaining the term overshooting, the CPRO said it occurs when a train, instead of stopping at a red signal, moves on.

Two coaches of the Visakhapatnam-Palasa Passenger train from the rear and the loco of the Visakhapatnam-Rayagada Passenger were derailed as a result of the accident.

Accident relief trains and other rescue equipment have been engaged. The CPRO said around 100 passengers were in the two ill-fated trains.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik condoled the death of passengers in the train accident. He wished for the speedy recovery of the injured passengers.

The chief minister directed Odisha’s Special Relief Commissioner and collectors of Rayagada and Koraput districts to extend immediate help in rescue and relief operations.

Ex gratia announced

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said rescue operations were underway.

“All passengers shifted. PM Narendra Modi Ji reviewed the situation. Spoke to the CM of Andhra Pradesh, state govt and railway teams are working in close coordination,” the minister said on X.

“Ex gratia compensation disbursement started – ₹10 lakh in case of death, ₹2 lakh towards grievous and ₹50,000 for minor injuries,” he said in another post.

The latest was the most serious train accident since 2 June when over 290 people died in a three-train crash in Odisha’s Balasore district. The Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, and a goods train were involved in the crash.

(With PTI inputs)