Nearly 300 people were killed and over 800 have been injured in a horrific train derailment that occurred on Friday evening at around 7 pm in Odisha’s Balasore.
In one of the largest search-and-rescue operations in recent years, over 2,000 personnel found 290 bodies, and rescued over 1,100 people.
Of the more than 1,100 rescued, nearly 500 were being treated at various hospitals in the state. Of the injured, 56 were stated to be grievously wounded.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the accident site to take stock of the situation. The leaders also met the injured in the hospitals.
Odisha observed Saturday as a day of mourning for the lives lost in the accident. As many as 33 trains were cancelled and 36 were diverted through other routes.
The Friday’s crash is the country’s deadliest rail accident in more than 20 years.
Many experts said that the railways have been slow to install safety mechanisms such as anti-collision devices and emergency warning systems across the network.
Anti-collision system “Kavach” was not available on the route involved in Friday’s accident.
“They will always tell you that accidents are at a very manageable level because they talk about them in terms of percentages,” NDTV quoted Srinand Jha, an independent transport expert and author at the International Railway Journal as saying.
While at the accident site, West Bengal CM Banerjee — in the presence of Railway minister Vaishnaw — remarked that an anti-collision device could have prevented the accident but the Balasore route did not have one.
“There was something (error) behind the accident and it should be probed properly as so many lives have been lost. I have heard that the death toll could rise to 500. Three bogies have not been searched,” she said.
Indian Railways earlier issued a statement as to how the accident took place. According to them, Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express (12841) took a wrong track instead of the main line at the Bahanaga Bazaar station in Balasore district of Odisha and crashed into a goods train stationed there. Coromandel Express was going at full speed as it was not supposed to stop at the station. In the impact, 21 coaches derailed and three of them jumped onto an adjacent track, through which the Yeshwantpur- Howrah Express (12864) was travelling at the same time, said Railway. The two rearmost coaches of the Yeshwantpur-Howrah Express also derailed.