NEARLY 1,000 passengers on board a train in India endured a harrowing ride when the carriages rolled backward for kilometers before it was stopped.
On Sunday, India’s railway ministry said the 22 runaway carriages in the eastern state of Odisha rolled for 12km before being brought to a halt by rocks placed on the tracks by railway staff, according to Channel News Asia (via the AFP).
JP Mishra, a spokesman for the railway ministry’s eastern division, said none of the passengers were injured in the incident on Saturday night.
However, the ministry has suspended seven railway employees and launched an investigation into how the carriages became separated during the 1,700 km trip between Gujarat to Odisha.
The AFP quoted authorities as saying they believe that the brakes applied when carriages are detached or attached to the engine were either incorrectly used or overlooked altogether.
Another official said the skid-brake on the wheels of the coaches was not applied by the staff.
“When engine is detached to be attached at the other end, coaches should be secured with skids at the wheels,” an East Coast Railway spokesman told NDTV.
In this case, it appears that skids were not placed properly. Facts will be known after detailed enquiry,”
“Something ghastly could have happened and it was averted by alert staff. Safety cannot be compromised,” Mishra said.
“Everybody in the railways (ministry) is aghast and shocked.”
Footage of the incident was posted on social media, showing the carriages racing through a railway platform. Onlookers were seen screaming and yelling at passengers to pull the train’s emergency brake.
The incident has again highlighted India’s poor railway safety records, a network dating back to the colonial era used daily by 22 million passengers who commute on 9,000 trains throughout the country.
According to the Rail Board’s statistics over 800 accidents were reported between 2009-10 and 2014-15 in which 620 people and over 1,800 were injured. 47 percent of incidents were due to the derailment of trains.
A government report published in 2012 said 15,000 people are killed in various ways every year on India’s railways, describing the incidences as an annual “massacre”.
In November, three people died when 13 coaches of an express train derailed in northern India in an incident. In 2016, a similar disaster saw the deaths of 146 people.