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Odisha Train Accident: Final Death Count 261, over 900 Injured

Odisha Train Accident: Final Death Count 261, over 900 Injured


Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 3: As the rescue operations were completed at the site on Saturday evening, the death toll in the Fridays horrific train accident at Balasore in Odisha involving three trains stood at 261 with over 900 injured being treated in various hospitals at Gopalpur, Khantapara, Balasore, Bhadrak and Soro.

“The death toll in the Balasore train accident has risen to 261,” said South East Railway spokesperson Aditya Chowdhury on Saturday, adding that “rescue of injured passengers has been completed.”

The train crash, the fourth deadliest in India according to available records, happened near the Bahanaga Baazar station in Balasore district, about 250 km south of Kolkata and 170 km north of Bhubaneswar, around 7 p.m. on Friday. Officials said Friday’s accident was the country’s deadliest rail accident in more than 20 years. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the train accident site and also met some injured people at hospitals in Cuttack, his office tweeted. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik declared one-day State mourning in the wake of the deadly triple train crash.

The crash involved the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, and a goods train. Several coaches of the 12864 Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, on the way to Howrah, derailed and fell on adjacent tracks, an official said. “These derailed coaches collided with the 12841 Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express and its coaches capsized too,” he said.

The accident saw one train ram so hard into another that carriages were lifted high into the air, twisting and then smashing off the tracks. Another carriage had been tossed entirely onto its roof, crushing the passenger section. “Everything was shaking and we could feel the coach toppling,” Sanjay Mukhia, a daily wage worker travelling to Chennai on the Coromandel-Shalimar Express, said showing his injuries.

According to another survivor, severed limbs were scattered over the ripped metal wreckage. “I was sleeping when the train derailed. Some 10-15 people fell over me. When I came out of the coach, I saw limbs scattered all around, a leg here, a hand there…someone’s face was disfigured,” the survivor said.

“The rescue operation has been completed and now the focus is on restoration work,” Railways Spokesperson Amitabh Sharma said. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said a high-level committee would be set up to investigate the train crash.

Mr Vaishnaw has announced compensation of ₹ 10 lakh for the families of those who have died, ₹ 2 lakh for those seriously injured and ₹ 50,000 for those who sustained minor injuries in the accident. Modi too expressed his distress over the accident, and announced a compensation of ₹ 2 lakh for the family of the dead and ₹ 50,000 for the injured from the PM’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF).

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted she was monitoring the situation continually personally with the Chief Secretary and other senior officers. 48 trains have been cancelled, 39 diverted and 10 trains have been short terminated due to the accident, which happened on the Howrah-Chennai main line in the Kharagpur division of the South Eastern Railway.

Huge cranes and bulldozers were brought in to raise coaches rescuers had not been able to reach as yet in operations to pull out survivors and the dead from the mangled steel of three trains.

At the site of the mishap, Modi reviewed relief works that are underway. He interacted with local authorities, personnel from the disaster relief forces and railways officials. He emphasised on ‘Whole of Government’ approach to mitigate this monumental tragedy.

The PM spoke to Cabinet Secretary and Health Minister from the site. He asked them to ensure all needed help is provided to the injured and their families. He also said special care must be taken to ensure that the bereaved families don’t face inconvenience and those affected keep getting assistance they require.

Expressing shock and grief at the tragic train accident in Odisha, opposition leaders on Saturday stressed the importance of prioritising the safety of passengers by railways, while there were also demands to fix accountability and for the resignation of Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

The Congress said the “horrendous” train accident in Odisha reinforces why safety should always be the foremost priority in the functioning of the rail network and asserted that there are many questions to ask of the Prime Minister and Railway Minister but those can wait as the immediate task was of rescue and relief.

CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said in a tweet: “Do we no longer have any signalling and safety system in Indian railways? Or will such terrible tragedies become the new normal for rail travel in India? We owe an answer to the victims and to the families who lost their near and dear ones in this mishap.” The CPI and RJD demanded that Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw resign over the incident.

Senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar termed the Odisha train accident a failure of the government and said Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw should resign from the post by taking moral responsibility for the tragedy.

“In the past, five railway ministers resigned taking moral responsibility for major accidents (during their tenure). In the same way, the current railway minister (Vaishnaw) should take moral responsibility and tender his resignation,” Pawar said. “So many innocent lives were lost even as a revolution is taking place in transportation technology. This is a failure of the railway department and the government,” the former Maharashtra deputy chief minister said.

Southern Railway has said family members of victims of the train accident can travel to Bhadrak from Chennai. Another special train (No. 02840) will be operated, and it will depart from Dr. MGR Chennai Central Railway Station at 7.20 p.m. on Saturday, June 3.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday expressed grief over the loss of lives in the train accident. Taking to his official Twitter handle, Sharif wrote, “Deeply saddened by the loss of hundreds of lives in a train accident in India. I extend my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families who lost their loved ones in this tragedy. Prayers for a speedy recovery of the injured.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin also expressed grief over the loss of lives. He offered condolences to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Droupadi Murmu over the train accident in Odisha.

“Vladimir Putin sent his condolences to President of India Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the deadly train collision in the Indian state of Odisha,” according to the statement released by Kremlin. “We share the grief of those who lost their loved ones in this tragic accident, and wish a speedy recovery for those injured,” the statement said.

In January, Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister of Railways, had revealed that the Indian Railways was reeling under a crushing staff shortage with 3.12 lakh non-gazetted posts lying vacant across the country, spread across 18 zones, as on December 1, 2022. The Minister had disclosed the information in response to a starred question in the Rajya Sabha. The maximum posts are vacant in the northern zone (38,754), followed by the western (30,476), eastern (30,141), and central zones (28,650).

The Odisha government has issued the helpline 06782-262286. The railway helplines are 033-26382217 (Howrah), 8972073925 (Kharagpur), 8249591559 (Balasore) and 044- 25330952 (Chennai).

Southern Railway has set up a round-the-clock helpline and control office at Chennai. A press release said, commuters and relatives could contact the helpline and control office at 044-25330952, 044-25330953, and 044-25354771.



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