They brought my son’s photo, said he is dead: Kin of Odisha train accident victim
In Kolkata, government officers monitoring the emergency helpline numbers said they received frantic calls from almost all districts
Far away from his home at Haripal in West Bengal’s Hooghly district, Ayan Das has been receiving every call from known and unknown numbers once he came to know about the railway disaster in Odisha.
“Four of my neighbours from Haripal were coming to me. Three of them, Atanu Kisku, Tapas Kisku and Rohit Hembram are admitted at a hospital in Balasore but there is no news of the fourth man, Gopal Hembram,” Das told HT over phone from Kerala’s Kollam city.
“Like me, these men are skilled carpenters. There are a lot of job opportunities in Kerala. Migrant workers rent rooms and live in groups to cut down cost,” Das added.
In Kolkata, government officers monitoring the emergency helpline numbers said they received frantic calls from almost all districts since the early hours of Saturday.
“A few thousand calls came from families of migrant workers. The sudden crisis once again exposed us to the facet of life that we first witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic,” a police officer said on condition of anonymity.
“Families that contacted us said these migrants work in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and come home once or twice a year,” the officer added.
Most of the migrant workers who left the mangled coaches of the Coromandel Express alive were thankful at having cheated death.
“Luckily, our coach, S2, suffered less damage than the unreserved compartments in which many migrant workers were travelling,” Sanatan Bera said over phone from East Midnapore district’s Moyna government hospital, where he was admitted with multiple injuries.
“I was travelling with my brother, Chandan, who is also injured. I am a cook at a canteen in a private college in Chennai. My brother was also going to Chennai for a job interview. He recently passed a hotel management course,” Bera said.
Mahdi Ahmed, who got his college degree in Kolkata two years ago, was in coach No A1.
“I was going to Chennai with two of my friends to look for work. It is sheer luck that we have come back alive,” Ahmed said.
Darkness descended on the families that lost earning members.
“They brought a photo of my son in the morning and said he is dead. I don’t believe them,” Tasmina Bibi, a widow from Katwa in East Burdwan district told the local media after government officials informed the family that her son, Sheikh Sadddam, who worked in Chennai, died in the accident.
Several migrant workers provided same phone numbers while booking their tickets in a group, HT found while trying to contact these men.
Amir Sheikh and Subhas Sheikh, who were travelling from Howrah to Chennai, provided the same number but it could not be reached till Saturday night.