Locals in and around Bahanaga Bazar station near Odisha’s Balasore district became one of the first respondents to the fatal accident involving three trains on Friday that claimed 288 lives and left over 1,000 injured.
Ranajit Giri, Biprada Bag, Asha Behera and Ashok Bera, all residents of the Bahanaga Bazar station area in the Balasore district where the crash took place, were among the first to rescue the injured.
Odisha Chief Minister Navin Patnaik praised the locals, for swinging into action and saving thousands of lives in the wake of the horrific accident involving the Shalimar-Coromandel Express, Bangalore-Howrah Superfast Express, and a freight train. The crash turned out to be one of the deadliest train accidents in the country's recent history.
"I was at a nearby tea stall with my friends around 7 pm. Suddenly, I heard a loud sound followed by cries of people. We rushed to the spot and were taken aback at what we saw. Without wasting time, we started rescuing the injured. We also informed police and railway officials," Giri told a Bengali news channel, according to a report by PTI.
The report also quoted Bag, who said, "We rescued at least 50 injured passengers and used our vehicles to ferry passengers to the local hospital. Some survivors were looking for their near and dear ones, but since it was too dark, we couldn't help them.”
Praising the assistance of the locals and others who acted as the first respondents, Patnaik said, "Doctors, medical students, the general public, and all had one thing in mind – let's save [lives], as many as we can. And we have saved more than a thousand lives.” He added: "I am proud of my people. I am proud of Odisha."
According to a report by Hindustan Times, the tales of Purna Chandra Mallik, a farmer, and Sudarshan Das, a daily wager, narrate what the first group of respondents did when they heard a loud bang and smoke engulfing the area.
Speaking to HT, Mallik said that they had to use flashlights to see through the dark and the wreckage. Before the NDRF team arrived, the locals had successfully pulled out 30 bodies. While they tried to rescue the passengers, all they saw were limbless bodies in blood-soaked clothes. After the initial shock, they said that they did not waste any time and started to help the strangled passengers as they could.
Sixty-year-old Ashok Bera went to the hospital to donate blood.
"I came here to donate blood but was not allowed because of my age. I then asked my sons and relatives to reach the hospital and donate blood," he said, reports PTI.
Behera was seen taking care of two children whose parents were yet to be traced.
"I rescued this boy from the spot and brought him to the hospital. Here, I met a girl who could not locate her parents. We are trying to get in touch with their relatives," she told a news channel.
Recalling his harrowing experience with HT, Ranjan Murmu said how devastated he felt when people started dying in front of him and he could not even offer water to them.