At least 20 passengers were injured as the locomotive and two compartments of the train Rangpur Express caught fire following the derailment of the train’s locomotive and seven compartments near Ullapara Rail Station at Ullapara in Sirajganj on Thursday.
The accident caused the rail communications between Dhaka and the northern and south-western districts to snap for about seven hours putting the passengers on different stranded trains into immense sufferings.
The primary investigation indicates that the derailment might have been caused due to faults in the point system, said railway officials but they also feared that the mishap could be an act of sabotage.
Three probe committees were formed by the railway authorities and the deputy commissioner of Sirajganj.
This accident took place two days after at least 16 passengers were killed and over 70 others injured in a collision between two trains at Mandabhag in Brahmanbaria early Tuesday.
Earlier on October 16, prime minister Sheikh Hasina opened the replacement ‘Reck’ of the Rangpur Express inducting modern and new coaches from Indonesia to improve the train services from Dhaka to the northern region.
The New Age correspondent in Sirajganj reported that the accident took place at about 1:30pm on the Sirajganj-Ishwardi section on which 21 pairs of trains run daily.
Ullapara railway station’s assistant master Md Rafiqul Islam said that the Rangpur Express on the Dhaka-Rangpur route was on its way to Ishwardi after getting clearance from the lineman at Ullapara.
When the train crossed the main platform of the station its locomotive suddenly went upward and then derailed with the seven compartments behind it, he said.
Immediately after the derailment the locomotive and the two air-conditioned coaches behind it caught fire emitting a huge smoke around, he said.
Panicked passengers broke and jumped out of windows of the compartments that caught fire and were injured, Rafiqul said.
Sirajganj fire service and civil defence members and police personnel controlled the fire after two hours of efforts.
Ullapara fire service station officer Nazir Hossain and Ullapara upazila health complex sources said that at least 20 passengers received minor injuries.
A relief train from Paksey reached the spot at about 6:00pm and the communications resumed at about 8:20pm, said Paksey divisional railway manager Mizanur Rahman.
Railway ministry secretary Md Mofazzel Hossain told New Age that the fire might have originated following a short circuit as the coaches and locomotive clashed with each other and with the track.
‘A suspicion of sabotage can’t be ruled out but I can’t say anything about it right now before investigation,’ he said replying a question.
A senior railway official told this newspaper that each of the Indonesian-made air-conditioned coaches affected cost around Tk four crore.
‘We are seriously examining the possibility of sabotage behind the accident,’ he added.
According to a primary assumption the accident might have taken place due to problems in point system when the train was going to one line from another, he added.
Railway general manager (west zone) Mihir Kanti Ghosh said that two committees – one four-member and another five-member – were formed to investigate the accident and submit reports.
Besides, Sirajganj deputy commissioner Faruk Ahmed said that they, too, formed a five-member committee which would probe the mishap and submit its report within five work days.
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