It was around 3:00am yesterday.
A Chattogram-bound train from Sylhet -- Udayan Express -- was changing its track to allow Dhaka-bound train Turna Nishita Express from Chattogram to pass byMandobagh Railway Station in Brahmanbaria’s Kasba.
As 11 of the 14 coaches of Udayan carrying over 700 passengers got on the loop line (a railway track closer to a platform)from the single track, Turna Nishita coming from the opposite direction rammed its 12th coach.
Three coaches of Udayan went off the track on impact and got mangled, trapping many passengers inside. Nine of them died on the spot and scores of others were injured. Seven seriously wounded passengers died at hospitals in Cumilla and Brahmanbaria.
Around 70 other badly injured passengers are under treatment at Brahmanbaria Sadar Hospital, Cumilla Medical College Hospital, Dhaka Medical College Hospital and National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation (Pongu Hospital).
Following the accident, locals rushed to the spot with shovels and hammers and rescued many passengers trapped inside the mangled compartments of the train. Fire service personnel later joined them.
Torn seats, clothes and sandals were seen lying scattered at the scene.
Train service between Dhaka and Sylhet remained suspended for more than seven hours until relief train cleared the track.
All the 16 deceased and the injured were passengers of Udayan. No passenger of Turna Nishita was injured.
The railway authorities suspended three staffers, including the driver of Turna Nishita and his assistant. Five probe bodies were formed by different authorities to investigate the incident.
President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan and Law Minister Anisul Huq expressed deep shock at the loss of lives in the accident.
Sujan, Railways Secretary Mofazzel Hossain and Bangladesh Railway (BR) Director General Md Shamsuzzaman visited the spot.
In a statement, National Human Rights Commission Chairman Nasima Begum expressed sympathy for the victims’ families.
“The reasons behind the accident needs to be investigated. Punishment to those responsible for the accident must be ensured,” she noted.
The NHRC sent a letter to the railways secretary, requesting the ministry to inform it about the action taken against the persons responsible, mentioned the statement.
Though derailment of trains and fatalities at level crossings -- many of those unmanned -- are common in Bangladesh, collision between two trains is not frequent.
In 2017-18, at least 40 people were killed in 89 train accidents mostly caused by train derailment, according to the BR’s Information Book 2018.
Of the accidents, 71.91 percent occurred due to human failures, 9.32 percent for technical defects and 11.23 percent for miscellaneous reasons, it says.
Earlier in December 2010, 14 people were killed and more than 100 injured as two trains collided head-on in Narsingdi.
HOW IT HAPPENED?
Mandobagh Railway Stationmaster Zaker Hossain Chowdhury said the red signal was shown at both the outer and home signal posts. But the driver of Turna Nishita got on the track violating the signal.
Salaullah Tipu, driver of Udayan, told The Daily Star, “We were crossing the station after getting the green signal from the control room.”
“It was Turna Nishita that violated the signal resulting in the accident,” he said.
Talking to reporters, the railways minister said the driver of Turna Nishita was at fault.
The train’s driver Taser Uddin, his assistant Apu Dey and guard Abdur Rahman were suspended for violating the signal, added Sujan.
The railways secretary said the probe committees, formed by the ministry and the BR, will investigate the incident and also find out whether the signal system was working properly.
The railways ministry formed a four-member probe committee led by Additional Secretary Rafiqul Islam. It was asked to submit report within five working days.
Also, the BR formed two probe bodies -- one comprising four members and the other five members.
The four-member committee, headed by Chief Operating Superintendent (East) Nazmul Islam, was asked to come up with its report as soon as possible.
The other committee, led by Divisional Transport Officer (Chattogram) Nasir Uddin, was asked to submit a report within two days.
The railways ministry asked the government railway inspector to probe the incident and submit a report.
Besides, Brahmanbaria district administration formed a probe body, led by Additional District Magistrate Mitu Mariam, and asked it to come up with a report within three working days.
Meanwhile, the railways ministry said it would provide the families of the deceased with Tk 1 lakh each and the injured with Tk 10,000 each. Besides, the district administration will give the families of the dead Tk 25,000 each.
The dead are Jaheda Khatun, 30, of Moulvibazar; Sohamoni, 3; Adiba, 2; Ali Mohammad Yusuf, 32; Yeasin Arafat, 10; Ripon Mia, 25; Al Amin, 30; Sujan Ahmed, 24; and Peara Begum, 32, of Habiganj; Mujibur Rahman, 55; his wife Kulsum Begum, 45; Kakoli, 20; Farzana Akhter, 15, and Mariam, 4, of Chandpur; Robi Harijan, 23, of Noakhali; and Amatun Begum, 40, of Shariatpur.
The authorities handed over 15 of the bodies to their families. Farzana’s family was yet to receive her body.