- By Geeta Pandey
- BBC News, Delhi
A horrific collision involving three trains in the eastern Indian state of Odisha has killed 288 people and left hundreds injured, many of them seriously.
The cause of the crash, described as India’s worst this century, remains unclear.
Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who was at the scene of the crash, said “a high-level committee” would be formed to investigate the accident.
Mr Vaishnaw’s cabinet colleague, Dharmendra Pradhan, blamed “technical reasons” for the crash, describing it as “an unfortunate incident” that “should not have happened”.
An official said the investigation would be led by the railway safety commissioner in charge of the southeast region – which includes the Balasore district where the crash occurred.
Full details of how the incident happened are not yet available, but the Ministry of Railways said the accident happened at around 18:55 (13:25 GMT) on Friday near Bahanaga Bazar station, about 270 km south of Kolkata.
The accident involved three trains:
- The Coromandel Express started just a few hours ago from Shalimar railway station in the state of West Bengal and is heading to the southern city of Chennai
- Howrah Superfast Express has started from Yesvantpur station in Bengaluru due to going to Howrah
- A stationary freight train is standing at Bahanaga Bazar . station
There are varying accounts of which train derailed first and how the collision happened. But Railway spokesman Amitabh Sharma said the Coromandel Express derailed first.
An official from the Ministry of Railways told the BBC that the Bahanaga Bazar station has four tracks.
“Lines 1 and 4 have freight trains parked on them. Passenger trains run parallel and simultaneously on lines 2 and 3. The point is to investigate why and how the Coromandel Express derailed and crashed into freight trains,” he said.
He added that the carriages of the derailed train fell on the two rear carriages of Horwah Superfast and caused it to derail.
A total of 17 carriages of the two passenger trains were derailed and severely damaged, an Odisha government press release said.
Villagers in the nearby area and those who witnessed the crash also spoke of three trains that were involved in the crash.
Girija Shankar Rath, who lives near the station and was one of the first to arrive at the crash site, told BBC Hindi that the Coromandel Express train derailed and hit a freight train parked on the tracks nearby from the side. after.
“There was total chaos and the whole area was engulfed in smoke. Then we saw the Shalimar Express go down and hit some debris from the Coromandel and its two carriages also derailed.” he said.
Another witness, Tutu Biswas, said he arrived at the scene when he heard a loud noise.
“Several cars of the Coromandel Express have passed through the freight train,” Mr Biswas said. “There are a lot of injured people and bodies here. I met a boy who lost both his parents. He cried and then died too,” he added.
Friday’s crash is one of the five deadliest in Indian railway history.
Atul Karwal, head of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), said the force of the collision caused several carriages to be crushed and rescuers had to cut through the wreckage to reach the passengers.
Hundreds of ambulances, doctors, nurses and rescue workers were dispatched to the scene and worked for 18 hours to rescue passengers and pull bodies out.
India has one of the largest rail networks in the world – It runs more than 12,000 passenger trains daily and is used by tens of millions of passengers to commute around the country on a daily basis, but a lot of infrastructure railway needs to be improved.
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