Thursday, November 25, 2004

Hell(?)Bound

I used to stay with my relatives in Bicol during my growing up years. I finished my secondary education in one of the public schools there, I can still remember the smooth ride my sisters and I enjoy when vacation time comes for us. We would share a story or two and chat away while at the background is the humming of the engine of the peaceful train or a speedy bus. I recall looking out the window and admiring the serene beauty of nature, back then travelling was perfect. Before you know it, it's home sweet home. Safe and sound.

Now that I am working, going to Bicol for a vacation is now like asking for the rains to drop in the deserts of the Sahara. The bus fares had gone way up, a one-way ticket ride now costs more or less a thousand bucks. The trains are so sloooooowwww, it could take you up to 24 hours to arrive to your destination (I can imagine those travelling to the Visayan or Mindanao region where one would cross the deep blue sea first).

SLEEPY TRAIN SLIPS OFF
Early this month, a Manila-bound train carrying around 400 passengers from Legazpi City in Albay slipped off its tracks while negotiating the curve in Barangay Duhat, Padre Burgos, Quezon. Over a hundred passengers were injured while six were instantly killed after getting pinned under the overturned coaches when the train they were riding plummeted down a 40-foot ravine after four of its coaches were derailed.

An investigation followed, and even Department of Transportation and Communications secretary Leandro Mendoza experienced the train derailment. While doing the rounds to check for the safety of the trains plying our railroad tracks after the crash happened, the train being ridden by Sec. Mendoza was derailed and slipped off the tracks. Lucky for them, it wasn't a very serious accident.

Meanwhile, initial findings bared that the theft of railroad spikes was the likely cause for the train crash. The Manila-bound train went off the tracks due to a "shifting" rail as the train negotiated a curve. Mendoza said the spikes that were supposed to have been holding down the railway tracks were missing. Investigators of the DOTC ruled out any sabotage in the train accident that happened which left at least seven people dead and more than a hundred injured.

Sec. Mendoza further adds, "based on observation, the color and texture of the holes left by spikes showed that they had long been missing and could not, therefore, be a part of a deliberate act to derail a passing train. There was no sign of any explosive that might have derailed the train."

The investigators for their part says that, "the rails themselves may not show any signs of damage but the rest of the railways track components, especially the wooden ties and metal spikes need replacement or rehabilitation due to aging, damage or pilferage. There were also no signs of error on the part of the train engineer."

A drug test conducted by the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on the train driver, Aurelio Leaño, was negative for any drug use.

"It (CIDG) was also found out that Mr. Leaño is a classified as a Train Driver ‘A’ and has four years of experience as train driver to back his qualifications," said Mendoza.

However, the passengers thought otherwise. The passengers claimed that the train driver if not on drugs might be under the influence of alcohol because they were travelling on a very dangerous speed. Even some witnesses testified that the train was indeed moving beyond the usual speed that's why it slipped off the tracks when it negotiated the curve in Barangay Duhat, Padre Burgos town.

At any rate, innocent lives were wasted in this accident. Whether the rail authorities is at fault or not, they must do something to prevent another unfortunate incident like this to happen. An ounce of prevention is always better than a pound of cure, right?

WHEN A BUS SWIMS
After almost 24 hours after the unfortunate train crash occurred, a Peñafrancia bus with license plates EVP-792 was on its way to Legazpi City when the driver lost control of the vehicle after trying to overtake a truck while crossing the Baluguhin Bridge in Barangay Malinao Ibaba, Atimonan.

The bus hit the concrete railings of the bridge when its driver swerved to the left to avoid an oncoming vehicle. The concrete railings collapsed upon impact and the bus plunged into the river. Reports said at least 26 passengers were injured.

Chief Inspector Roni Mirales, the town’s police chief, said the accident occurred at 11:25 p.m. along the stretch of Barangay Malinao Ibaba, Atimonan, hours after the Peñafrancia bus, with about 30 passengers on board, left its Ali Mall terminal in Cubao, Quezon City.

Rescuers meanwhile, most of them still resting after the rescue operation on the train accident, immediately rushed to the scene to assist the victims. Seven of those hurt, the Office of Civil Defense said, were taken to Doña Martha Hospital for treatment.

The driver, on the other hand, immediately fled on foot and is now the subject of manhunt operations by the Atimonan police.

As of the moment, there's still no word whether the driver has now been apprehended. In the meantime, the bus officials reassured the public of the safety of their trips.

SAFETY FIRST
I sincerely hope that such unfortunate incidents will not happen again. Though accidents do happen, we can prevent it by always instilling in our minds the value of one's life. Let's always practice safety in whatever we do, and also let's offer a moment of silence and prayer to the unfortunate victims of these accidents and asked them to guide our drivers so that we can experience yet another safe and sound trip. Home sweet home.

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