Investigation into train tragedy that killed at least 275 people in India first. India’s Minister of Railways announced on Sunday, June 4, that the causes and those responsible for India’s worst rail disaster in recent decades have been identified, while establishing an electronic signaling system.
“We have identified the cause of the accident and the people responsible,” India’s Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told ANI news agency, adding that it was “inappropriate” for him to reveal more details before a final investigative report.
According to the minister, “the changes that occur during the electronic switching are the origin of accidents”, referring to the complex computer systems that regulate traffic on India’s railways to prevent train collisions.
“The perpetrator and the manner in which the accident occurred will be found after a proper investigation,” he added.
Confusion reigned at this stage, but The Times of India, citing an initial investigative report, said “human error” may have caused the collision between the three trains.
The Coromandel Express, which links Calcutta to Madras, had been given the go-ahead to run on the main line but was diverted to a line where freight trains were already on, according to the newspaper.
The passenger train then rammed into the freight convoy at around 130 km/h. Three carriages then fell onto adjacent tracks, crashing into the back of an express train operating between Bangalore and Calcutta. It was this crash that caused the most damage, the Times added, citing initial reports.
The tragedy occurred near Balasore, about 200 km from Bhubaneswar, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
At least 275 people died in the tragedy and 900 others were injured. The previous death toll estimated at 288 was revised lower on Sunday as bodies were reportedly double counted, Odisha State Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena was quoted as saying by ANI news agency. .
“We don’t know how many more bodies will be added,” said a health official.
“No one responsible” for the accident will survive, the Prime Minister of India vowed Narendra Modiwho went to the disaster site on Saturday and met the injured in the hospital.
“I pray that we get out of this sad moment as soon as possible,” he told public broadcaster Doordarshan.
“All bodies and injured evacuated”
About 24 hours after the crash, rescue operations ended on Saturday night, as the disemboweled carcass was searched for survivors. “All bodies and injured passengers have been evacuated from the crash site,” a manager of the emergency coordination room in Balasore, near the crash site, told AFP.
All hospitals between the crash site and Bhubaneswar were receiving victims, authorities said. About 200 ambulances, even buses, were dispatched to transport them.
After the crash, “people were screaming for help,” survivor Arjun Das told Indian television. Passengers were thrown from their berths, “there were injured lying everywhere in the cars and along the tracks,” he added, stressing that he wanted to “forget the sights” he witnessed.
Hiranmay Rath, a student whose house is near the railroad tracks, rushed to help. It’s like “the sky is falling on us or the earth is cracking”.
Within hours, he said he saw more “death and distress” than he could have ever imagined. “Imagine seeing – or extracting – someone’s mangled body, a severed arm or leg.”
“I saw bodies without heads, and others without limbs, bloody bodies”, Anubhav Das also testified, “almost like war”.
At this point, Friday night’s train crash is the deadliest yet India since 1995, when two express trains collided in Firozabad, near Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located, killing more than 300 people.
India has experienced a number of deadly rail accidents, but safety has improved in recent years thanks to new investment and technological upgrades.
But the deadliest in the country’s history remains on June 6, 1981 when, in the (eastern) state of Bihar, seven train cars crossing a bridge plunged into the Bagmati River, leaving between 800 and 1,000 people dead.
With AFP and Reuters
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