Death toll in India train crash reaches 288
Officials say the death toll in India’s worst rail crash in over two decades reached 288 on Saturday.
The collision occurred at around 7 p.m. (1330 GMT) on Friday when the Howrah Superfast Express from Bengaluru to Howrah in West Bengal collided with the Coromandel Express from Kolkata to Chennai.
One train in Friday’s accident also hit a freight train parked nearby in the district of Balasore in Odisha state in the east of the country, leaving a tangled mess of smashed rail cars and injuring 803.
Dead bodies are still trapped in the mangled coaches and the rescue operation is continuing, a witness said, while the death toll is expected to rise.
A preliminary report indicates that the accident was the result of signal failure, said K. S. Anand, chief public relations officer of the South Eastern Railway.
“The Coromandel Express was supposed to travel on the main line, but a signal was given for the loop line instead, and the train rammed into a goods train already parked over there. Its coaches then fell onto the tracks on either side, also derailing the Howrah Superfast Express,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at the scene, talked to rescue workers and inspected the wreckage. He also met the survivors at hospitals.
“(I) took stock of the situation at the site of the tragedy in Odisha. Words can’t capture my deep sorrow. We stand committed to providing all possible assistance to those affected,” Modi said.
Families of the dead will receive 1 million rupees ($12,000), while the seriously injured will get 200,000 rupees, with 50,000 rupees for minor injuries, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said. Some state governments have also announced compensation.
“It’s a big, tragic accident,” Vaishnaw told reporters after inspecting the accident site. “Our complete focus is on the rescue and relief operation, and we are trying to ensure that those injured get the best possible treatment.”
Indian Railways says it transports more than 13 million people every day. But the state-run monopoly has had a patchy safety record because of ageing infrastructure.
Modi’s administration has launched high-speed trains as part of plans to modernise the network, but critics say it has not focused enough on safety and upgrading ageing infrastructure.
Experts said Friday’s train accident came as a blow to Modi’s makeover plans for railways.
India’s deadliest railway accident was in 1981 when a train plunged off a bridge into a river in Bihar state, killing an estimated 800 people.
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron expressed condolences over the accident.