Lucknow, July 11 (IANS): The body count rose to 69 by the time night-long search operations in one of India's worst train accidents ended on Monday in Uttar Pradesh, where 14 coaches of the speeding Howrah-Kalka Mail had jumped off the rails a day earlier. But many survivors still lingered around the site, wailing and in shock.
The cause of the accident, which also left 196 injured, is still unknown. The dead include two Swedish nationals.
Railway authorities are trying to restore the track where traffic was completely disrupted. The incident took place at 12.20 pm on Sunday, near the Malwan station in Fatehpur district, about 140 km from here.
"The search is over and we have a final count of 69 dead and 196 injured, of which four are serious," Fatehpur additional district magistrate Anil Kumar Pathak told IANS over telephone from the site.
The rescue operations concluded under the leadership of the army Monday noon.
"The railway authorities will now get down to restoration of the rail track, on which traffic was completely disrupted. "The train was on its way from Howrah to Kalka, via Delhi. At least a dozen trains had to be cancelled while about two dozen were diverted," he said.
The operation was closed after a final nod from Col A.D.S. Dhillon, who was heading an army contingent from Allahabad. The army was assisted by a special team of the central government's National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), which reached the site Sunday night.
The dead Swedish nationals have been identified as Victor and Wick. They were travelling in a second class reserved coach that was completely smashed in the accident. Their Swedish companion, Oscar, however, survived and is hospitalised with multiple injuries in Kanpur.
The rescue teams also pressed their trained sniffer dogs into service to lead the way to any bodies possibly trapped under the heaps of mangled metal. "That helped to track least a dozen more bodies, which could not have been detected otherwise," Pathak said.
Over 100 of the injured were hospitalised in Fatehpur, Kanpur and Lucknow, while the rest were discharged after first-aid, said local officials.
Fatehpur's Chief Medical Officer KN Joshi said about 150 people were hospitalised with amputations, fractures and other injuries.
Disconsolate survivors searched all night and were still at the site Monday for some signs of life.
"I went to the hospital and have been running around the whole night looking for my brother," a sobbing, 14-year old Shahana told reporters at the site. The accident had left her mother dead and father with an amputated leg.
Minutes later, as she discovered that one of the bodies being pulled out by the army personnel was that of her brother, she became hysterical, "What will I do now, where will I go?"
Local villagers were the first to rush to the rescue of victims. Many passengers complained that relief came a bit too late and they had to fend for themselves for at least two hours before help arrived.
It took some time for railway staff to reach the site with the necessary equipment to cut through the metal with gas-cutters in order to extricate trapped passengers from the mangled coaches.
A senior railway official confirmed that the train was running at 108 km an hour when the driver applied emergency brakes, triggering the derailment.
Some 180 army men worked all night to pull out the dead. Military helicopters ferried the more seriously injured to hospitals to Lucknow and Allahabad.
The accident is described as this year's worst rail tragedy in India's rail network which is regarded as one of the largest in the world, ferrying about 14 million passengers a day.