Over 115 passengers were killed and more than 200 injured, nearly half of them grievously, in the worst train accident in recent years when 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express derailed in Kanpur rural area in the wee hours on Sunday due to suspected rail fracture.
The disaster took place just a little after 0300 hrs when the passengers were jolted out of their sleep as the Patna-bound train jumped the tracks, badly damaging four ordinary sleeper coaches in which hundreds were trapped. Of the four coaches, the S1 and S2 had telescoped into each other and most of the casualties were feared to have been in these two compartments. S3 and S4 coaches also suffered severe damage while an AC III tier coach was also affected but casualties in it were not heavy. As railway personnel assisted by those of army, NDRF and state police carried out the search and rescue operation, the number of casualties kept on increasing by the hour.
The incident took place at 3 AM near Pukhrayan, about 100 kms from Kanpur. Most of the passengers were jolted out of their sleep to find themselves among mangled remains of the bogies.
By evening, 110 bodies were recovered and taken to Mati mortuary in Kanpur rural. The death toll is over 115, UP DGP Javeed Ahmad said. Among the dead, 43 have been identified, of which 20 are from Uttar Pradesh, 15 from Madhya Pradesh and six from Bihar and one each from Maharashtra and Gujarat. Post mortem of 27 identified bodies has been done and they were being handed over to the families. Ambulance facilities were also being provided to the families of the victims to transport the bodies, officials said. “Over 150 injured people have been rushed to nearby hospitals in the area. All hospitals have been asked to be alert. More than 30 ambulances have been pressed into service,” they said.
Officials said that prima facie the cause of the accident could be due to track fracture. Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha told reporters at the spot that it seems the cause of the accident is rail fracture. Member (Engineering) of the Railway Board will find out the cause of the mishap and action will be taken against those responsible, he said. With several passengers feared trapped, rescue personnel employed cold cutters to break open the compartments as gas cutters produced excessive heat and suffocation hampering their efforts.
A number of trapped passengers were rescued. Teams of army doctors, railway officials and personnel of NDRF, state PAC and other policemen were involved in carrying out rescue and relief operation. The Chief Minister instructed the DGP to personally monitor the relief operations and deploy traffic police along the route of the mishap site to ensure green corridor for ambulances to reach hospitals quickly.
More ambulances/roadways buses have been rushed to the spot for speedy relief operations, the CM said. DG Health and ADG (Law and Order) also rushed to the accident spot to monitor the relief operations. Buses were pressed into service to help passengers complete their journey, Kumar said.
A team of Army doctors and rescue officials have arrived at the spot. 250 police officials are also involved in carrying out the rescue and relief operations. Five NDRF teams were deployed to rescue passengers trapped in the mangled bogies of the train even as the Home Minister gave instructions to the force’s chief, R K Pachnanda. Prabhu has ordered a probe into the train tragedy and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 3.5 lakh for the families of those killed and Rs 50,000 for those grievously injured.
North Central Railway General Manager Arun Srivastava said traffic on Kanpur-Jhansi section will be opened in 36 hours. NDRF Director General RK Pachnanda told PTI that a total of five teams of the special rescue force, comprising 45 personnel each, were pressed into action at the accident site. “The rescue teams are deploying cutters and hydraulic equipment to ensure that all the trapped passengers are evacuated safely from the rail bogies,” the DG, who reached the accident site, said. “As the victims are trapped inside the bogies, due care and diligence is being taken into consideration,” he said. NDRF responders were making all possible efforts to rescue the trapped victims with the help of multi-types of latest disaster management gadgets and tools. NDRF rescued at least 53 passengers including 16 badly trapped from the bogies. Among them were two children. Some additional teams are also put on standby and shall be mobilized as per demand,” the force said in a statement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi condoled the loss of lives in the train tragedy. He said Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu is personally monitoring the situation and announced an ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of those killed and Rs 50,000 for those seriously injured in the mishap from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund. Modi observed two-minute silence to condole the loss of lives at the Rail Vikas Shivir at Surajkund on the outskirts of the national capital asking the railways to work toward achieving the zero accident target to make train journeys safe. Home Minister Rajnath Singh also expressed deep pain over the loss of lives. He said there will be an inquiry into the incident to find out the detail cause of it. Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu has ordered a probe into the train tragedy and announced ex-gratia for the families of the victims. Rs 3.5 lakh exgratia will be given for the families of those killed in the derailment and Rs 50,000 for those grievously injured, Prabhu said the Commissioner of Railway Safety will probe the reasons behind the derailment. “All rescue and relief work is on to deal with the unfortunate accident. All medical and other help rushed. Inquiry ordered. Situation monitored closely,” Prabhu said.
President Pranab Mukherjee, and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi led the nation in condoling the train tragedy in UP’s Kanpur Dehat. Sonia asked the local Congress unit to assist in the relief and rescue operations along with the authorities. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh will be paid to next of kin of the deceased.”I am sad to learn about the accident in which many have lost their lives and a number of persons are injured. I am sure that the state government is providing all possible assistance to the bereaved families as well as medical aid to the injured,” Mukherjee said in a message to Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar cancelled a function to release a report card of his government on completion of one year in office and expressed grief over the mishap. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed condolence to the bereaved families.
The railways have given helpline numbers for anyone seeking information about their people lost life or badly injured, etc.
Speaking on the occasion of launch of “US-India State and Urban Initiative” by Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a top American think-tank, Biswal stressed on building state to state relationships. “India is the best place in the world to invest in renewable energy. But the regulatory environment and all the issues related to financing will have to be resolved for that to happen,” he asserted.
Former Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav criticised the working of Modi government by saying that instead of ensuring safety of passengers, they wasted “Rs 1 Lacs Cr in headline grabbing but loss making bullet trains.” For last 30 months, I have written many letters to PM requesting him to accord priority to safety & core operating performance of Railways. Rather than investing 1 Lacs Cr. in headline grabbing but loss making bullet trains, first, Modi Govt must look after Safety & Security measures. During my tenure all arrears of replacement were fully liquidated & adequate provisions were made based on actual requirements rather than residual basis”.
This tragedy has occurred soon after the bad news for India arrived about the shock defeat of Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, a top Indian born American official Nisha Desai Biswal has said Indo-US ties are so broad and dynamic that pulling back on any aspect will not be in the interest of anyone, while observing that the next administration may want to add their own new areas of focus in the bilateral relationship. “India-US relations will have to move beyond government to government. India-US relations are global, but they should also be local,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Biswal told a Washington audience.
New ADB Platform to Help Boost Financing for Climate Action
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has launched a new platform aimed at helping its developing member countries in Asia and the Pacific mobilize funding to meet their goals under the Paris Agreement.
The NDC Advance platform will help countries mobilize finance to implement Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) regarding greenhouse gas emissions that each country has voluntarily committed to under the Paris Agreement. NDCs also describe priority actions for countries to adapt to climate change.
The announcement was made at the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, which is aiming to finalize a rulebook for the Paris Agreement when it goes into effect on 1 January 2020.
The agreement aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C, while aiming for 1.5°C.
“Through their NDCs, our developing member countries have made ambitious commitments to respond to climate change,” said ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Mr. Bambang Susantono. “We need to ensure that countries are able to mobilize the needed financing to deliver on their commitments. NDC Advance will help countries devise investment plans to tap financing from a variety of sources and to implement priority projects effectively.”
NDC Advance is funded through a $4.55 million grant from ADB and will have three aims: providing technical assistance that helps countries better engage with potential sources of climate finance and to make use of innovative finance mechanisms; identifying and prioritizing climate projects; and supporting countries in tracking how projects deliver against their NDC goals.
The new initiative will help propel the climate actions ADB has committed to under its Strategy 2030 program.
ADB earlier this year committed to ensuring that 75% of its operations will support climate change mitigation and adaptation by 2030, while providing cumulative climate financing of $80 billion from its own sources between 2019 and 2030.
Egypt: Shifting Public Funds from Infrastructure to Investing in People
Egypt has an opportunity to capitalize on current reforms by enabling more private investment in infrastructure and freeing up public funds for investments in people’s education, health and social protection. This is according to a new World Bank report launched today in Cairo,‘’Egypt: Enabling Private Investment and Commercial Financing in Infrastructure’’, which calls for increasing the public funds available for building human capital by expanding successful energy reforms to other key sectors, such as transport, logistics, water and agriculture.
“Egypt can learn from global experience and gain by increasing the use of private sector finance, management expertise and innovation in commercial infrastructure and agriculture, conserving public sector resources for where they are needed most”, said Clive Harris, Head for Maximizing Finance for Development for the World Bank.
Egypt is now beginning to reap the benefits of its transformative economic reform program. Macroeconomic stability and market confidence have been largely restored, growth has resumed, fiscal accounts are improving, and the public debt ratio is projected to fall for the first time in a decade.
“Egypt has demonstrated that by having a package aimed at reducing economic risks, pursuing sector level reforms and well-prepared bankable projects, large scale foreign and domestic investment can be achieved, This is visible through the US$ 2 billion invested in the largest solar park in the world, Benban, as well as US$ 13 billion in the Zohr field and other natural gas projects” said Ashish Khanna, Program Leader for Sustainable Development at the World Bank.
The report indicates that the action plan to further enabling private investment requires clear policy actions to resolve four cross cutting barriers to private investment – namely better management of land, transparency in Government procurement, efficiency in state owned enterprise and encouraging long term domestic financing. This needs to be complemented with developing projects for private investments with maximum economic impact, like the regional energy hub, logistics corridors, freight transport and agricultural transformation hubs.
The gains from reforms would also free up scarce public resources and allow for them to be re-allocated to investments in the education and health of Egyptians, the country’s human capital. Reforms in the energy sector provide an example of what is possible. The reform of energy subsidies freed up US$14 billon, reduced the pressure on the national budget and allowed the quadrupling of the investments in social safety net programs.
According to the report, for Egypt to maintain its reform momentum and focus on investing in its citizens, it will need to broaden and deepen its reform agenda to other sectors. This would be part of a fundamental shift away from the state as a provider of employment and output to an enabler of private investment; with the economy driven by a dynamic private sector generating jobs for the youth.
The report identifies four sectors which have huge potential for private investments and illustrates how successfully attracting those investments would generate growth, create jobs and ultimately contribute to developing Egypt’s human capital. The four sectors analyzed in the report are: transport, energy, water and sanitation, and agriculture.
The World Bank provides technical, analytical and financial support to help Egypt reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity. The focus of Bank support includes social safety nets, energy, transport, rural water and sanitation, irrigation, social housing, health care, job creation, and financing for micro and small enterprises. The World Bank currently has a portfolio of 16 projects with a total commitment of US$6.69 billion.
New Initiative to Mitigate Risk for Global Solar Scale-up
The World Bank and Agence Française de Développement (AFD) are developing a joint Global Solar Risk Mitigation Initiative (SRMI), an integrated approach to tackle policy, technical and financial issues associated with scaling up solar energy deployment, especially in some of the world’s poorest countries.
Initiated in Delhi at the first International Solar Alliance (ISA) summit in March 2018, the initiative will support the ISA’s goal to reduce costs and mobilize $1,000 billion in public and private investments to finance 1,000 GW of global solar capacity by 2030.
“The World Bank, in partnership with AFD, remains committed to the International Solar Alliance’s goals and to global efforts to fight climate change. Through this new, integrated approach, we hope to further scale up solar energy use by reducing the cost of financing for solar projects and de-risking them, especially in low-income countries,” said Riccardo Puliti, Senior Director of Energy and Extractives at the World Bank.
As the costs for solar power have fallen steadily, solar power is increasingly viewed as a key component in the fight against climate change. However, solar deployment has been slow in some emerging markets, particularly Africa, due to layers of risks perceived by the private sector in financing solar projects. The SRMI aims to change that.
“This partnership with ISA and the World Bank is another step towards achieving the objective of the Paris Agreement of redirecting financial flows in favor of low carbon and resilient development pathways. AFD is glad to join forces with these partners to deliver on the commitments made at COP21, to bring solutions to de-risk potential solar investments and mobilize the private sector to invest in sustainable development” said Rémy RIOUX, CEO of AFD.
The SRMI’s integrated approach will include:
- Support for the development of an enabling policy environment in targeted countries
- A new digital procurement (e-tendering) platform to facilitate and streamline solar auctions
- Targeting relatively small (under 20 MW) solar projects, offering a more comprehensive risk mitigation package of support to a wider range of investors and financiers to promote scale up at later stages. The financial risk mitigation package offered by SRMI will be supported by technical assistance and concerted engagement on planning, resource mapping and power sector reforms to ensure the creditworthiness of utilities in these countries
- Mitigating the residual project’s risks through adequate risk mitigation financial instruments for both on and off-grid projects
The governments of India and France launched the ISA, an international organization as part of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 to scale up solar energy resources, reduce the cost of financing for solar projects around the world and ultimately help reach the Sustainable Development Goal on energy (SDG7) of providing access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy to all. To date, 71 countries have signed the constituting treaty of the ISA, and 48 have ratified it.
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