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Deewana: Alert gateman prevented greater tragedy

Source: PTI
February 20, 2007 22:55 IST
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An alert gateman and prompt action by the station master of Deewana railway station prevented a greater tragedy on the Samjhauta Express that went up in flames after twin blasts on Sunday night, killing 68 people.

Pawan Kumar, manning the railway crossing number 47C near Deewana, heard two explosions on the train as the Delhi-Attari Samjhauta Express trundled past his cabin in the darkness of the night.

Moments later station master of the Deewana railway station saw two compartments of the train up in flames and asked the gatemen at the next railway crossing to turn the signal red.

"Pawan Kumar also alerted the driver about the fire and asked him to stop the train as soon as possible," Manoj Kumar, a railway official at the station told PTI.

The burning train had crossed Siwah village some 300 meters away, where the villagers settled along the tracks were awakened by the cries of the passengers and the screeching of the brakes of the train.

"The driver of the train separated the three bogies from the rear to avoid the fire from spreading," said Ishwar Sharma, who stays along with his ageing father in a house near the railway tracks.

The bogies were separated and the driver gave a light push using the engine as a result of which the three bogies rolled a few hundred metres away," he said.

The two compartments on fire were soon isolated right on the railway crossing, a move, which helped fire fighters bring fire engines very near to the rail tracks to douse the flames.

The residents of Siwah rushed out of their homes to rescue those trapped inside the coaches.

"We saw people making frantic efforts to come out of the burning compartments and threw stones at the windows to break them open," said Sumitra, who stays barely 100 metres away from the railway tracks.

Sumitra, along with her husband and neighbours, had rushed to the spot to launch rescue efforts.

And from then on the villagers worked tirelessly -- bringing water from the nearby lake to douse the flames, arranging tractors to ferry the injured to the hospital and even making tea and snacks for the police and firefighters, who arrived later.

"I saw a woman engulfed in flames jump out of the train and succumb to injuries on the track," said Kanta, who is a neighbour of Sumitra.

Of the 68 people dead, doctors were able to identify 18 bodies -- five Indians and 13 Pakistan nationals.

"We will be embalming the bodies that have been unidentified so that they can be preserved for a longer duration," police officials said.

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