India: 280 dead, high-level probe into massive train crash

By Anadolu staff

ANKARA (AA): The death toll surpassed more than 280 in a crash involving three trains in eastern India, with 900 injured, officials said Saturday.

The accident occurred in the Balasore district of Odisha state late Friday and a massive rescue operation was launched involving the National Disaster Response Force, military and other agencies, according to officials.

Sudhanshu Sarangi, the state’s Director General of the Fire Services Department, Odisha, confirmed the number of casualties to Anadolu.

Footage from the site showed a large number of rescuers continuing to help passengers trapped on the train early Saturday. It showed immense damage to the coaches in what is the worst-ever train accident in recent Indian history.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who visited the site Saturday, said the focus remains on the rescue.

He said the best possible health care facility will be provided to the injured and a high-level committee has been formed to investigate the mishap and to know the root cause of the accident.

He said the probe will reveal how the accident happened.

Railway Ministry spokesman Amitabh Sharma told Anadolu late Friday that the accident occurred when a passenger train derailed and its cars fell on the opposite track. Railway authorities also announced compensation for victims.

“The derailed coaches hit another passenger train, throwing a few coaches of the second train off the track,” he said, adding a freight train was also involved.

A survivor who was onboard the train said he was asleep when it derailed.

“Ten to 15 passengers fell on my body,” he told reporters. “When I came out of the coach, I found someone was without limbs, foot and someone had face injuries as well.”

“We were jolted and suddenly saw the train bogie turn on one side. Many of us were thrown out of the compartment by the momentum of the derailment. When we managed to crawl out, we found bodies lying all around,”

Pijush Poddar from West Bengal state, told the Press Trust of India news agency.

The news agency said the Balasore district hospital “looked like a war zone.”

Shortly after the accident, residents rushed to the hospital to donate blood. Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said 500 units of blood were collected overnight in Balasore.

India’s South Eastern Railway announced the cancellation and diversions of several trains.

The state’s information and public relations department said in view of the accident, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ordered a one-day mourning period.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Distressed by the train accident in Odisha. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.”

India has experienced large train accidents. In 2016, more than 140 passengers were killed after a train derailed in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

Several countries have expressed condolences.

“On behalf of the US Mission in India, I extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the tragic train accident in Balasore. We stand with India and the people of Odisha in this time of grief,” tweeted US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti.

Nepal’s Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said he is “saddened by the loss of dozens of lives in a train accident.”

[Map of India from CIA Factbook/Public Domain]

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