Eleven passengers – mostly students – were killed and seven injured when a train hit a microbus at Baratakia rail crossing in Mirsarai, Chattogram on Friday (29 July).
Chattogram-bound Mahanagar Prabhati Express from Dhaka hit the microbus – which was carrying students and teachers of a coaching centre – as soon as it got on the rail line at Baratakia.
Eyewitnesses said there was no gateman at the railway crossing when the accident occurred and the bamboo barrier at the crossing was not lowered.
The deceased were teachers and students of a coaching centre named R&J Private Care in Hathazari upazila of Chattogram. They were returning after visiting Khoiyachora waterfalls.
Asiful Islam, a friend of the deceased students, said there were 12 students and four teachers on the microbus. The coaching centre authorities organised the picnic as a farewell to the Secondary School Certificate examinees of the centre.
The deceased students were – Mohammad Hasan, Moshab Ahmed Hisam (16), Tauhid Ibn Shawon (20), Sagar, Iqbal Hossain Maruf and Ayatul Islam.
The four deceased teachers were Ridwan Chowdhury (22), a student of Chattogram College; Mostafa Masud Rakib (19), a student of Cantonment Public College; Wahidul Alam Jisan (22), and Ziaul Haque Sajeeb (22).
The other deceased was the microbus driver Gholam Mustafa Niru (26).
Kabir Hossain, officer-in-charge of Mirsarai police station, said seven people injured in the accident were admitted to Chattogram Medical College Hospital.
Bangladesh Railway has formed a five-member committee to investigate the cause of the accident. The committee headed by Railway East Zone Deputy Director (Traffic Commercial) Ansar Ali has been asked to submit an inquiry report within seven days.
Ansar Ali said the microbus got on the line when Mahanagar Prabhati was passing through the Baratakia rail crossing. After the collision, the microbus got stuck with the train's engine. The train dragged the microbus about half a kilometer before stopping.
Nibedita Ghosh, a doctor of Chattogram Medical College Hospital, said among the injured, Tanvir Hasan Huday (15), Mohammad Mahim (16), Tasmir Hasan (16), Ayat (15), Saikat (16) have been admitted to the neurosurgery ward and Eamon (15) and Microbus assistant Taukeer is being treated in the general ward.
After the accident at Mirsarai, Mahanagar Prabhati was delayed for several hours. When it started for Chattogram again it met with another accident in Pahartali, killing one person. The deceased of this accident could not be identified till filing of this report.
Grief engulfs Chikondandi
Fourteen of the microbus passengers were from Chikondandi union in Hathazari. Most of them are former and current students of KS Nozu Miah High School in the area.
Gloom shrouded the Chikondandi area when the news of the deaths caused by the accident reached there.
Sadhan Chandra Nath, a senior teacher of the school, told The Business Standard, "Most of the students and the teachers of the coaching centre were our current and former students. We have never seen so many of our students die at once."
Inadequate measures cause repeated deaths at rail crossings
On 21 July, five workers in a bhatbhati (locally-made human hauler) were killed in a collision with the Tungipara Express train at Kathamdarast railway crossing in Kashiani, Gopalganj.
On 17 July, four people were killed when a bus carrying garment workers was hit by a train at Maijpara railway crossing in Sreepur, Gazipur.
According to the calculations of Bangladesh Railway, 175 people died in railway accidents from 2014 to 2020. Out of these, 145 died at the level crossings, which is 83% of all rail accident deaths.
Regarding Friday's accident, Advocate Akhtar Kabir Chowdhury, president of Chattogram City unit of Sachetan Nagarik Committee-TIB, said, "According to eyewitnesses, the accident occurred because there was no signal or barrier at the railway crossing, neither was the gateman."
"Despite the frequent accidents, the authorities are not taking measures to ensure safety at the railway crossings and appointing enough gatemen. However, the government is taking on new projects worth thousands of crores of taka every year."
However, Ansar Ali, Deputy Director of Eastern Railway, said, "The gateman Saddam lowered the bamboo barrier when the train arrived, but the microbus pushed it and got on the line. We are still investigating the incident. Actions will be taken if the lineman is not present at his post at the time of the accident."