Several locals who emerged as heroic first responders in the aftermath of the devastating train accident near Bahanaga town in Balasore district, Odisha, described horrifying scenes including “scattered dismembered bodies” they encountered at the accident site on Friday. The incident claimed the lives of 275 people so far.
Locals in Bahanaga town and Kamarpur village in Balasore district were among the first responders to reach the site of the accident involving the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, both carrying approximately 2,500 passengers and a goods train which took place around 7 pm on Friday.
Among them was a schoolboy who assisted the injured in contacting their families through phone calls, villagers who hand-stitched empty cement sacks to create makeshift stretchers, a pharmacy store that administered over 1000 free Tetanus injections, free water and food from a local grocery store and a retired official who opened doors to provide shelter to over 50 children throughout the night, according to an Indian Express report.
Soubhagya Sarangi, a 25-year-old owner of a pharmacy store located just 50 meters away from the accident site administered around 1,000 tetanus injections for free to the survivors. Recounting the incident, Sarangi said he heard a loud noise and rushed outside.
While he immediately began providing tetanus injections and pain relievers to the injured passengers, his neighbors also joined in to help. “I also provided bandages and other medicines. I finally went home at 4 am,” he told the publication.
He estimated his expenses to be around Rs 8,000 but said he doesn’t want reimbursement. “Am I not a human being?” he asked.
Nilambar Behera, a 64-year-old retired government employee residing on the first floor of the building that houses Sarangi’s pharmacy store extended help by offering food and shelter to approximately 50 rescued children.
Rinamani, Behera’s wife, shared the children who were were around 14-15 years old from Patna were sheltered and fed at their terrace until the following morning. They were then handed over to the authorities the next day.
The couple’s son, Chandan Kumar, who operates a tuition center, participated in the rescue efforts to save those trapped. Speaking to the media, he said he rushed to the site after his two of his friends who were travelling on the train managed to call him on his mobile phone. He managed to save both of his friends who were injured in the mishap and helped in the rescue of several others. In the rescue efforts, Kumar also sustained a injury on his right foot and had to receive stitches. “We remained at the scene throughout the entire night,” he recounted.
Jhulan Das, the neighbor of the Behera family, played a crucial role in providing first aid to the survivors of the train accident. Additionally, her 12-year-old son, Riddhiman assisted the “frantic” injured in contacting their families.
Describing harrowing scenes including “scattered dismembered bodies”, locals said they climbed onto the derailed coaches and broke open windows to rescue those trapped inside. While some died after being pulled from the train, others provided water pouches to the injured passengers, pouring it over them.
Reflecting on the challenging circumstances and lack of stretchers to carry the injured, villagers made every effort to aid in the rescue operations, including improvising by stitching empty cement bags and using gas cutters to open compartments.
Recounting the grim scene, they describe many dead bodies and severe dismemberment.
The police and official rescue teams arrived “much later” they said, adding their clothes became soaked and stained with the blood of those injured.
Odisha Chief Secretary PK Jena had revised the death toll to 275 from 288. Out of the 275 deceased, 151 bodies have been successfully identified, the state government said on Monday. All bodies, after due process, are being handed over for transfer to their respective destinations, officials said.
The state government had said it wants all the bodies to be identified to enable their respective families to perform the cremation rituals. However, due to the prevailing hot weather conditions, the bodies are deteriorating rapidly, Jena had said on Sunday.
“Keeping in view the prevailing hot weather, the bodies are decomposing fast. Therefore, the state can maximum wait for two more days before disposing of them as per the law,” he said.