Nearly 300 people died in one of India’s deadliest train crashes
At least 288 people have been killed and more than 850 injured in a train crash involving three trains in the eastern state of Odisha in India, officials said.
The death toll is expected to rise amid fears more people will be trapped in the wrecked train cars. Rescuers searched iron chambers and used sniffer dogs to search for survivors and bodies. On Saturday morning, the Indian Army joined the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), police and other rescue teams to find survivors.
“We are not very hopeful of saving anyone alive,” Sudhanshu Sarangi, the Odisha fire chief, told reporters on Saturday morning.
Odisha’s chief secretary, Pradeep Jena, said more than 200 ambulances were on the scene, taking the injured to hospitals. The deluge of dazed and bleeding victims overwhelmed small local hospitals unaccustomed to such a large influx of high-trauma patients.
Footage from the scene of the accident showed bodies lined up on tracks and injured people being taken to hospitals while rescuers frantically searched the overturned and muddled metal train compartments. The state government has declared a day of mourning. At least three trains were involved in the accident on Friday evening. There is no official version of what happened.
But according to local media reports and eyewitnesses, a passenger train, the Coromandel Shalimar Express, derailed and crashed into a stationary freight train at around 6:50 p.m. local time – causing many carriages to overturn. Then, after about 20 minutes, the Yeshvantpur-Howrah Superfast train approaching the scene of the accident rammed the derailed wagons on the adjacent track.
“As I stepped out of the toilet, the train suddenly overturned,” passenger Vandana Kaleda told the Associated Press. “I lost my balance… Everything got mixed up. People fell on each other and I was shocked and couldn’t understand what happened. My mind stopped working.”
It is unclear why a second train approaching the scene of the accident was not stopped in time. However, Indian Railways has launched an investigation into the accident.
Amid opposition calls for his resignation, India’s Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw called the accident “tragic” and said the focus remains on rescue and relief efforts for the time being. He added that a high-level investigative committee was formed to find out the cause of the accident. A separate investigation will be conducted by the Commissioner for Railway Safety, he said.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited the crash site on Saturday, said he was “saddened” by the accident and in the “hour of mourning” his “thoughts are with the bereaved”. He has called a meeting of senior officials to review the situation and pledged “any help” to the victims.
The Department of Railroads has announced compensation of around $12,200 for the families of the dead, $2,440 for those seriously injured and $610 for those slightly injured.
India has one of the largest railway networks in the world, with an estimated 13 million people traveling by train every day. But despite recent huge modernization investments, much of the country’s railway infrastructure is old and outdated.
The recent train disaster is one of the worst in India in decades. In 1981, a cyclone killed more than 800 people in the eastern state of Bihar when a passenger train derailed and plunged into a river. More than 300 people died in 1995 when the Purushottam Express collided with a stationary train in the central state of Uttar Pradesh. In 2016, 152 people were killed in the same state when a passenger train derailed.