Reports: Tsunami Claims At Least 1,000 RR Passengers

TELWATTA, Sri Lanka — At least 1,000 train passengers were killed here when a tsunami rocked Sri Lanka and Asia.

The passengers were on board a train known as the “Queen of the Sea,” when the tsunami struck, sweeping the train off its tracks and leaving behind a swath of destruction.

The train left Colombo at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 26 and was heading towards Galle, Sri Lanka. The train traveled along a coastal line, which was about 200 yards from the water, The Associated Press reported.

Near the village of Telwatta, the train stopped because of rising water, authorities said. Some reports indicate railroad authorities believed the location where the train stopped would be safe and not hit by the tidal wave.

However, the tidal wave struck and swept the train off the tracks. Many bodies were found in or near the derailed coaches, while others were later recovered elsewhere, according to various news reports.

“The people in the village ran toward the train and climbed on top of it,” The Associated Press quoted Police Superintendent B.P.B. Ayupala as saying.

The train’s engineer survived the tidal wave.

It is not clear exactly how many people on board the train were killed. Some reports indicate as many as 1,700 people died, though other reports don’t place the death toll quite as high.

Regardless, the disaster is the worst single rail disaster ever, according to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia. This disaster eclipses a 1981 disaster that left about 800 people dead.

In that disaster, a cyclone blew a train off a trestle in India.

Published in the February 2005 edition of The Cross-Tie.