Many faces of train tragedy

The Daily Star November 13, 2019

Many faces of train tragedy

The train accident in Brahmanbaria yesterday left at least 16 dead and shattered the lives of many. After such tragedies, attention can often turn towards the number of victims, turning them into mere statistics. But the story that unfolded in Brahmanbaria is not one of only numbers. These were real people with real stories.

This is their story.

Md Emon, along with his mother, grandmother and three siblings, was returning home to Chattogram yesterday in the Udayan Express after burying his father in their ancestral village of Sreemangal on Friday.

Fresh from the qulkhawni, the family was still in shock. Before they could even process the loss, the train was rammed by another, leaving them with the last memory of their mother: Jahera Khatun, 48, lying dead in a pool of blood.

“Our entire world turned upside down in a span of few days. First my father and now my mother,” said 18-year-old Emon, who suffered major wounds to his waist and legs in the crash.

The accident took place when the Dhaka-bound Turna Nishita Express disobeyed a signal and rammed into the last three coaches of Udayan Express, which was changing its track at Mandobagh Railway Station in Brahmanbaria’s Kasba.

On impact, the three coaches were thrown off the track and badly mangled, leaving 16 killed, scores injured and others trapped inside the remains of the carriages.

Emon, along with his three siblings and maternal grandmother, are undergoing treatment at the National Institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation (Nitor) in the capital.

Emon’s family had boarded the train from Shayestaganj of Habiganj around 12:00midnight.

All of them, except his elder brother, Md Sumon, were travelling in the compartment “Jha”, in one of the coaches hit by the Turna Nishita. His elder brother was in Compartment “Dha”.

Lying at his hospital bed in Nitor, Emon said he was lost in his thoughts when he was suddenly jolted back to reality by a loud bang and was then slammed against his seat.

Everything turned dark after that.

A while later, some people came and tried to help him. His elder brother appeared at the scene. Emon noticed his elder sister sprawled on the carriage floor and crying for him.

Next to her was his mother.

“I saw my mother amid a pool of blood,” said Emon.

“We have none to look us after,” said Emon, lying on his hospital bed, still racked by shivers every now and then.

Moni Shankar, assistant registrar of Nitor, said the three siblings had several fractures and would need to undergo operations.

‘HE DIED ON MY LAP’

While Emon and his family were coming to terms with the second biggest loss of their lives, in the same compartment of Udayan Express, Alamgir Alam was asleep, with his fourth-grader son Yeasin securely cradled on his lap.

Alam and his eight-member family had boarded the train from Sayestaganj Railway Station.

When the collision happened, Alam lost consciousness due to the impact.

Yeasin died on his father’s lap.

“As we woke up, we saw Yeasin had died on his father’s lap. His father, too, was unconscious,” said Mojibur Rahman, brother of Alamgir, a resident of Habiganj Sadar.

Firefighters rescued Alamgir and took him to Brahmanbaria Sadar Hospital. After he regained consciousness, he started looking for his son, oblivious to the fact that Yeasin was no more.

“Have you seen my soon anywhere?” he was seen asking whoever came to meet him.

A LIFE CUT SHORT

Three-year-old Soha Moni was going to Chattogram with her parents and elder brother. Residents of Habiganj’s Baniyachang, they were sitting together in the Udayan Express.

Soha was looking forward to the journey. Unfortunately, life had other plans.

After the accident, Soha was brought to Brahmanbaria Sadar Hospital, where doctors declared her dead.

At the time, no one had come to claim the girl, as her parents were also in the same hospital in critical condition.

Soha’s father Sohel Mia lost both his legs, while her mother had sustained serious injuries to her arms and legs. Soha’s brother, Sohag, 5, escaped with only minor injuries.

Soha’s maternal uncle Jamal Uddin arrived at the hospital morgue sometime in noon to take the body.

“Her parents were not informed about her death. They were told that she is injured,” Jamal said.

He said they had applied to the deputy commissioner of Brahmanbaria to take Soha’s body without conducting any autopsy.

Meanwhile, Jamal still does not know how to break the news of the child’s death to her parents.

‘I CAN’T FIND HER’

Abul Khayer, a resident of Sreemangal, was seen shuttling between the accident spot and the hospital to find his brother.

On Monday night, he had gone to see his brother off for Chattogram.

“I have been calling his cell phone since early morning, but it is switched off. I don’t know whether he is dead or alive,” he said.

Mayen Uddin, a chef in a restaurant in Chattogram, found himself in a situation similar to Abul Khayer’s. He was returning from Sylhet with his wife Kakoli and three-year-old daughter Mahima.

After the accident, he was relieved to have been rescued, along with his daughter, with some injuries.

The relief, however, was short-lived. There was no trace of Kakoli.

“Where can I find her now,” said Ayesha, sister of Mayen.

A CRUEL GOODBYE

One-and-a-half-year-old Isha was afraid.

A huge number of people had gathered at the Bayek High School premises in Brahmanbaria, where her father Ali Mohammad Yusuf, 32, now lay dead.

Isha did not like being surrounded by the crowd. She sat on her mother’s lap and cried.

Her mother Chistiya Begum, 24, a nurse of Raozan upazila health complex, had brought her here to take Yusuf’s body.

Yusuf, vice-principal of Little Flower Kindergarten at Habiganj, was travelling in the doomed train with his daughter and wife to a wedding ceremony.

Well-wishers had come to bid the vice-principal a final farewell.

“I don’t know how to console Chistiya,” said Taj Uddin, a relative of Yusuf.

The consolation, though, may not come anytime soon.

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