At least 261 people were killed and more than 1000 were injured in a horrific three-train collision in India’s eastern Odisha state.
The country’s deadliest rail accident in more than 20 years involved the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express and a freight train – the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express.
The train crash happened near the Bahanaga Baazar station in Balasore district, about 250 km south of Kolkata and 170 km north of Bhubaneswar, around 7 p.m. on Friday.
Several carriages from the Coromandel Express, travelling between Kolkata and Chennai derailed at about 19:00 in Balasore district after hitting a stationary freight train. Several of its coaches ended up on the opposite track.
Another train travelling in the opposite direction – the Howrah Superfast Express travelling from Yesvantpur to Howrah – then hit the overturned carriages.
“The force with which the trains collided has resulted in several coaches being crushed and mangled,” Atul Karwal, chief of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) told ANI news agency.
“Everything was shaking and we could feel the coach toppling,” Sanjay Mukhia, a daily wage worker travelling to Chennai on the Coromandel-Shalimar Express, told NDTV.
A massive recovery operation has been under way, with hundreds of emergency workers searching the wreckage.
All trapped and injured passengers have been rescued.
“The rescue operation has been completed, now we are starting the restoration work,” Railway ministry spokesperson Amitabh Sharma said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the site of the accident on Saturday afternoon, joining Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw at the scene.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared one-day State mourning in the wake of the deadly triple train crash.
Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw announced on Saturday that he has ordered a high-level probe into the derailment. “The accident was unfortunate, and the rescue operation began shortly after the incident was reported to his ministry,” the minister told ANI.
India’s trains have nearly 13 million passengers daily.
The railway ministry has announced an ex-gratia of Rs. 10 lakh to the kin of the deceased, Rs. 2 lakh to those severely injured, and Rs. 50,000 to those who sustained with minor injuries.
As of 6 pm on Saturday, 90 trains have been cancelled, 49 diverted, and 11 short terminated.
Odisha government helpline: 06782-262286.
Railway helplines: 033-26382217 (Howrah), 8972073925 (Kharagpur), 8249591559 (Balasore) and 044- 25330952 (Chennai).
Southern Railway round-the-clock helpline and control office at Chennai: 044-25330952, 044-25330953, and 044-25354771.
(Picture Courtesy: PTI)