Massive cranes and bulldozers have been deployed in Balasore district, Odisha to lift up one of the coaches that was trapped under the wreckage of three successive train derails. Firefighters were using gas torches and electric cutters to extract those who had survived as well as the corpses from the smashed steel. At least 238 deaths and 900 injuries were reported on Saturday by government officials and bystanders during Odisha rail crash. Authorities in Bhubneshwar announced that 1,200 personnel, 200 ambulances, 50 buses, and 45 mobile health units are at the scene of the disaster. The dead bodies are being sent to hospitals with tractors and other vehicles.
The death toll in the Balasore Train Accident has risen to 238, Odisha Chief Secretary PK Jena told reporters in Bhubaneshwar.
Around 7 pm on Friday, the train crashed near the Bahanaga Baazar station in Balasore district, about 250 km south of Kolkata and 170 km north of Bhubaneswar, causing the Railway Ministry to order an investigation.
Indian Railways said in a statement that the investigation will be led by A M Chowdhary, Commissioner Railway Safety, South East Circle.
Sources indicate that a signalling failure may have caused the crash.
An official said that several coaches of the 12864 Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express derailed and fell on adjacent tracks on the way to Howrah.
Coaches of the 12841 Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express also capsized after colliding with the derailed coaches, he said.
The Coromandel Express, which was heading to Chennai, was also involved in the accident when some of its coaches derailed and hit wagons, he said.
PTI Video reported that the Coromandel Express derailed first, and its 10-12 coaches fell on the Bengaluru-Howrah Express, forcing it to jump off the tracks.
It was impossible to reconcile the different versions of the accident immediately.
While expressing condolences for the deaths in one of India’s worst train accidents, opposition parties also criticized the government.
CPI MP Binoy Viswam tweeted, “Government concentrates only on luxury trains. Trains and tracks of common people are neglected. Orissa deaths are the result.”
As dawn broke on this tiny way station on the east coast railway line, disaster management personnel and firefighters were busy extricating bodies from under derailed coaches using gas cutters.
The accident site appeared as if a powerful whirlwind had thrown train coaches on top of each other haphazardly.
A grotesque scene was created by mangled steel and bloodied and disfigured bodies entangled with each other.
A passenger described some scenes at the site as too gory to describe.
Mangled coaches lay strewn all over the railway tracks, and some had mounted on another, while others had turned turtle due to the impact.
The accident happened when Pijush Poddar, a resident of Berhampore in West Bengal’s Murshidabad district, was travelling to Tamil Nadu for work.
When the train bogie turned on one side, many of us were thrown out of the compartment by the momentum of the derailment. When we crawled out, we found bodies lying all around, he said.
They rushed to the spot after hearing consecutive loud sounds, and found the derailed coaches mangled in a heap of steel.
One of the passengers, Rupam Banerjee, told reporters that the locals went out of their way to assist us… They not only helped with pulling out people, but also retrieved our luggage and brought us water.
Passengers said another coach from a neighboring train collapsed on top of one of the coaches.
It is being attempted to extricate this particular bogie and retrieve the dead inside. This will significantly increase the death toll, a state disaster relief official said.
There were stretchers in the corridors and extra beds propped up in the rooms at Balasore district hospital, which looked like a war zone.
Many of the patients are from states other than Odisha and had difficulty communicating. This hospital has admitted 526 railway accident victims.
Thousands of people gathered at the Balasore Medical College and Hospital in the night to help the injured, and many also donated blood, officials said.
With many train services being cancelled or delayed due to the accident on a major railway trunk route, the morgue at the hospital was full of white shrouded corpses, many of them still unidentified.
In the wake of the triple train crash, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared one day of state mourning on Saturday.
According to Satyabrata Sahoo, the injured are being treated at different hospitals.
Hospitals in the nearby districts, including the AIIMS at Bhubaneswar, are being used.
Naveen Patnaik, the chief minister of Odisha, and railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw visited the site in the morning.
A Rs 10 lakh ex-gratia has been announced for the next of kin of the deceased, Rs 2 lakh for the grievously injured, and Rs 50,000 for the minor injured.
The PM’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) announced an additional ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.
My thoughts are with the bereaved families in this hour of grief. I spoke with Railway Minister @AshwiniVaishnaw and took stock of the situation. I am distressed by the train accident in Odisha. Those affected are being provided with all possible assistance at the site of the mishap, he tweeted, as rescue operations are underway.
Odisha government issued helpline 06782-262286. Railway helplines are 033-26382217 (Howrah), 8972073925 (Kharagpur), 8249591559 (Balasore) and 044-25330952 (Chenna).
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she and the chief secretary were monitoring the situation in the wake of the accident that involved a large number of West Bengalis.
Chief Secretary HK Dwivedi said the state would send a team led by minister Manas Bhunia and MP Dola Sen.
A total of 18 long-distance trains have been cancelled due to the accident on the Howrah-Chennai main line in the Kharagpur division of the South Eastern Railway.