A fault in the electronic switching system has led to India’s deadliest rail disaster in decades, India’s railways minister said Sunday. The collision killed at least 288 people.
“We have identified the cause of the accident and the person responsible for it,” India’s Minister of Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw told ANI news agency on Sunday, adding that it was “inappropriate” for him to reveal more details before a final investigative report.
The provisional toll from the collision between three trains that occurred Friday near Balasore, in the eastern state of Odisha, reported at least 288 people killed.
Electronic signaling problem
According to the Minister, “the changes that occur during electronic interlocking are the origin of accidents”, referring to the complex set of signals that regulate traffic on rails to prevent train collisions.
“The perpetrator and the manner in which the accident occurred will be found after a proper investigation,” he added.
Confusion reigns at this stage but is everyday lifeciting a preliminary investigative report, said Sunday that “human error” may have caused the collision between three trains, one of the worst rail disasters in the country’s history.
The Coromandel Express, which links Calcutta to Madras, was given the go-ahead on Friday to run on the main line but was diverted due to human error on a line where there were already freight trains, 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.
At least 288 people died in the tragedy and more than 900 others were injured. But the death toll could be much higher and as high as 380, according to the director general of the Odisha state fire service, Sudhanshu Sarangi.
According to Arvind Agarwal, manager of a makeshift morgue set up at a high school, the bodies were “mostly unrecognizable” after more than twenty-four hours of sweltering heat.
“So the biggest test (for families) is the identification of the bodies,” he added while sitting in the principal’s office.
Arvind Agarwal has warned the family that they may have to do a DNA test to help identify the bodies.
“Someone must be punished”
Mohammad Abid, 35, told AFP his 18-year-old son escaped unharmed but was looking for his cousin, who was traveling with him. “I want to know how two trains can run on the same track… someone should be punished for that,” he added.
“No one responsible” for the accident will be spared, vowed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who went to the disaster site on Saturday and met the injured in hospital.
“I pray that we get out of this sad moment as soon as possible,” he told public broadcaster Doordarshan.
Following Pope Francis and United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in particular, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered his “sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims”, praising the “heroic efforts of first responders and medical personnel”.
At this stage, the train accident is India’s deadliest since 1995, when two express trains collided in Firozabad, near Agra, which houses the Taj Mahal, 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.
The deadliest in the country’s history remains on June 6, 1981 when, in the state of Bihar, seven train cars crossing a bridge plunged into the Bagmati River, killing between 800 and 1,000 people.
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