Odisha tragedy: Search for India's deadly train crash victims continues

Tri-train accident in Odisha that claimed over 288 lives registered as India's worst disasters in more than two decades

By
Reuters
A drone view shows derailed coaches after trains collided in Balasore district in the eastern state of Odisha, India, June 3, 2023. — Reuters
A drone view shows derailed coaches after trains collided in Balasore district in the eastern state of Odisha, India, June 3, 2023. — Reuters  

  • Signal failure potential cause of India's worst disaster in decades.
  • More bodies shifted to school being used as make-shift mortuary.
  • Number of casualties likely to rise further. 


BAHANGA: Rescuers and families searched through mangled train carriages on Sunday for more victims of India's worst rail crash in more than two decades with signal failure emerging as the likely cause.

At least 288 people were killed on Friday when a passenger train went off the tracks and hit another one near the district of Balasore in the eastern state of Odisha.

Five more bodies were brought to a school being used as a mortuary near the scene of the accident early on Sunday.

"We do not know how many more bodies will come," a health worker said.

Indian Railways says it transports more than 13 million people every day. But the state-run monopoly has had a patchy safety record because of ageing infrastructure.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces an election due next year, visited the scene on Saturday to talk to rescue workers, inspect the wreckage and meet some of the nearly 1,200 injured.

The South Eastern Railway has said a preliminary report indicated that the accident was the result of signal failure.

The accident took place when one of the trains went off the main track into a side track and collided with a stationary goods train, which led to its derailment and subsequent collision with a third incoming train, according to a railway official who declined to be identified.

The passenger trains were moving at speeds close to 130kph (81 mph), this official said.

Workers with heavy machinery were clearing the damaged track, wrecked trains and electric cables, as distraught relatives looked on.

"We were called by the police and asked to come," said Baisakhi Dhar from West Bengal state, searching for her husband Nikhil Dhar.

She said her husband's luggage and mobile had been found but had no information on his whereabouts.

More than a 1,000 people are involved in the rescue, the Railway Ministry said on Twitter.

"The target is by Wednesday morning the entire restoration work is complete and tracks should be working," said Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

At a business centre where bodies are taken for identification, dozens of relatives waited, many weeping and clutching identification cards and pictures of missing loved-ones.

Kanchan Choudhury, 49, was searching for her husband at the centre. Five people from her village were traveling on the train, of whom four were being treated at the hospital for injuries. However her husband was found dead, Kanchan Choudhury told Reuters as she wept while waiting to claim compensation at a counter in the centre, carrying both her and her husband's identity cards.

Families of the dead will get one million Indian rupees ($12,000) in compensation, while the seriously injured will get 200,000 INR, with ₹50,000 for minor injuries, Vaishnaw said on Saturday.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, US President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron have expressed condolences to the affectees of the deadly rail accident.