Uttam Kumar remembered a huge bang before his carriage was violently crushed. When he came to, he was trapped upside down in the wreckage of an Indian train that derailed on Sunday, killing more than 140 people.
The 26-year-old business student recalled how he waited more than three hours to be cut out of the mangled train carriage.
“It was like being in a nightmare. It was happening, but I couldn’t believe it was happening,” he said from his hospital bed in the northern city of Kanpur, near the accident site.
“They cut the part of the carriage where I was stuck and pulled me out. Then I remember being moved to the ambulance, which was parked next to the site. I was the only one alive among all the bodies.”
About 2 000 people were onboard the intercity express train when it went off the tracks at about3am on Sunday, violently jolting passengers out of their sleep.
Relatives have since flocked to the crash site and to nearby hospitals desperate for news of loved ones on the train, which was carrying at least one wedding party, with the marriage season in Indiain full swing.
So far 142 bodies have been pulled from the wreckage.
Rescue workers said many of the bodies were so badly damaged they are unrecognisable, and expect the toll to rise further as the worst affected carriages are cleared.
Vivek Parikh, whose two sisters were on the train, left for Kanpur from his home town – about350km away – as soon as he heard of the disaster.
One sister was confirmed dead and he spent the night searching Kanpur’s hospitals for the other.
“No hospital or location has any clue or detail about Roshni. Where is she?” he said as he rushed from one hospital official to another for information.
Kumar’s family managed to track him down quickly as residents heard his screams for help from the wreckage and took down his home telephone number to contact his relatives.
Kumar suffered head and back injuries, but his biggest concern is finding his 75-year-old grandfather, who was seated next to him on the train.
The pair had been on a pilgrimage to Ujjain – famed for its temples– and were on their way home to the eastern city of Patna, the train’s final destination.
“I don’t know what happened to him. He was on a seat beside me,” he said.