Cuttack/Bhubaneswar: Hansraj Kumar sits on a plastic stool, staring at an LED screen flashing photos of victims of the Odisha train accident. He is searching for his 22-year-old son who was aboard the Coromandel Express that met with an accident involving two other trains on 2 June. The official death toll of that accident stands at 288, with 87 bodies still unidentified.
“I have left it to God now. Since morning, I have been looking at photos…can anyone recognise these people? The bodies are damaged beyond recognition… I don’t know where my son is. Even if he is dead, how will I identify his body?” he say to ThePrint at AIIMS Bhubaneswar.
His son, 22-year-old Hardev Kumar, boarded the express from Shalimar, West Bengal, last Friday afternoon along with three others. Residents of Jharkhand’s Dumka, they were travelling to Chennai, in search of work.
“We tried stopping him from leaving the village, but he didn’t listen,” recalls Kumar who has barely slept since the deadly accident. The family first travelled to Balasore, but couldn’t trace Hardev there. Then, they came to Bhubaneswar. “Out of the four, only two bodies have been recovered,” says Hansraj.
A special help desk has been set up next to the mortuary in the hospital. Apart from a spiral bound book that contains the photos of those killed in the accident in Odisha, separate lists of the dead and the bodies that have been handed over are also maintained.
Doctors, Odisha Police, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation and East Coast Railway are manning these kiosks at AIIMS set up to help the kin of the passengers.
Meanwhile, five special containers, brought in from Paradeep Port, are parked at the end of the anatomy building of AIIMS, guarded by security and police personnel. It is here that the 87 unidentified bodies lie. “The bodies are kept at -18 degree Celsius. At this temperature, they can be stored for weeks,” Dr. Patra (he didn’t give his full name) said to ThePrint.
Another doctor on duty, who doesn’t wish to give her name, says the accident was so severe that the bodies were mangled beyond recognition. “We are asking the kin if the bodies they are looking for have a birthmark, or a tattoo to identify it,” she adds.
At least 288 people were killed in Friday’s collision involving the Coromandel Express, the Yashwantpur-Howrah Express and a goods train in Odisha’s Bahanaga Bazar. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has taken over the probe in the accident and has filed a First Information Report against unknown persons under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
The agony isn’t any less for people who have identified bodies of their kin – they are yet to find them. “We went to AIIMS Bhubaneswar and saw his photo on display. It was marked number 153 but when we tried claiming the body, the authorities told us, it isn’t here at AIIMS,” Jagannath Banerjee from Bengal’s South 24 Parganas, who is looking for his brother, Shubhashish, says to ThePrint.
Twenty-seven-year-old Subhashish was on his way to Chennai to join work after he was hired by the Railways as a contractual worker. Six persons from Kulpi in West Bengal had boarded the Coromandel Express from Shalimar. Of those, bodies of four have been identified and one person survived the fatal crash, but there is no information on Subhashish.
“We left for Odisha as soon as we learnt about the accident. Since the train lines were closed, we hired a car for Rs 30,000 to reach Balasore. We found his body’s photo in the book at the Balasore district hospital. They told us to go to AIIMS Bhubaneswar,” he says.
“Once we went there, we again identified the body, but they were unable to find it. Number 153 is pasted on his body but it is nowhere to be found,” says Jagannath at SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack, hoping to return home with the body for the last rites.
Eighteen-year-old Firoz Kumar from Jharkhand hasn’t slept a wink since last Friday. His brother, 25-year-old Hozraj Kumar, was on the train that collided with the goods train in Bahanaga bazar Railway station. Firoz identified his brother from the beard. But when he went to the help desk at AIIMS to claim the body, he learnt that another family from Bhagalpur had already claimed and taken it with them Tuesday.
Firoz has now given his blood sample for a DNA test. In the meantime, the body has been taken by the administration at Bhagalpur. DNA test results will ascertain who the body belongs to.
Twenty-year-old Gopal Hebram from West Bengal’s Hooghly district boarded the Coromandel Express on 2 June from Santragachi station. He was on his way to begin work at a plywood factory in Tamil Nadu.
He spoke to his wife, Tusi Hebram, at 6.30pm Friday. “There were three others travelling with my husband. They all survived and are being treated at Balasore Hospital. They called me and said there was a big accident and that my husband was taken by police from the spot. We got a photo of him being treated in the hospital ICU in Cuttack, but we cannot trace him,” says Tusi.
They have only been married for two years. Now, Tusi sits with her parents, brother, and mother-in-law at the SCB Medical College and Hospital, Cuttack, hoping to return home with her husband.
“My husband cannot be found, we do not know his condition, we are searching for him from one hospital to another… I cannot lose him like this,” she says. She has already searched the wards, one floor to the next, along with the doctor on duty, but hasn’t found her husband here.
(Edited by Smriti Sinha)
Source: The Print