CHENNAI: Traffic ebbed and flowed, horns blared and pedestrians hurried along. At 8.30am on Poonmallee High Road on Thursday, there was little to show that a two low intensity bombs had gone off inside Chennai Central station about an hour earlier.
Inside the station though, there was calm — a far cry from the usual chaos and confusion. Mumbai is often feted for its resilience to bomb blasts, shootouts and riots, but Chennai too was quick to keep calm and carry on though Thursday’s attack was a first of its kind. Barely five hours after the blast, train 12509 Guwahati Express chugged out of platform 9.
Railway authorities, police and security agencies stepped up their presence to infuse confidence among passengers. “I was too shaken to think of getting back on the same train but I saw police swarm into the station. They checked the entire train with dogs and equipment twice. Two new coaches were brought in. Everyone bag was checked. They did it amidst all the chaos,” said L Rufina travelling from Bangalore to Siliguri. She was in one of the coaches where a bomb went off and saw a boy collapse with bleeding legs.
Most of the passengers were labourers from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal crammed into unreserved coaches. They had no choice but to carry on.
The station was a sea of khaki — with officials from Railway Protection Force (RPF), Government Railway Police and Chennai police. Tamil Nadu director general of police K Ramanujam and Chennai police commissioner JK Tripathy were on the spot.
Even while the police were beginning their investigation, rumour mills on the internet began working overtime. While several messages about serial blasts began circulating, other netizens took it upon themselves to calm people.
Siddart Gunasekaran, tweeted “Just a minor blast, Need not panic”. “Stay safe everyone. Be calm and be brave,” tweeted Nikhil Garg. “Pls stop forwarding messages about terrorists and bomb blasts. It is causing chaos,” said a tweet. MP TKS Elangovan tweeted, “Request all my people not to panic. It’s our unity that has paved us through everything.”