New Delhi, Jun 3 (EFE).- The death toll from India’s worst rail accident of the 21st century climbed to 288 and the number of injured stands at more than 800, South Eastern Railway said Saturday.
“As per the information received till now, there are 288 casualties. 56 passengers have suffered grievous injury and 747 passengers were minorly injured,” SER said in a news release.
The sequence of collisions involving two passenger trains and a idled freight train unfolded Friday evening near Bahanaga Bazaar station in the Balasore district of the eastern state of Odisha.
Rescue teams were still searching through the wreckage at mid-day Saturday, the head of fire services in Odisha, Sudhansu Sarangi, told EFE.
“Railway is taking every initiative to complete the restoration work,” SER said, adding that officials have ordered “a high level inquiry” to determine the causes of the accident.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, traveled to the disaster scene on Saturday and subsequently met with some of the injured at a hospital in Balasore.
“The people we have lost, we will not be able to bring them back. But the government is with their families in their grief,” Modi said after visiting the site. “This is a very serious incident for the government. We have given directions for all lines of inquiry, and whoever is found responsible will be given the strongest punishment. They will not be spared.”
Amid continuing uncertainty about exactly what happened, officials said Saturday that it appeared a passenger train headed from West Bengal – neighboring Odisha – to the southern city of Chennai ran into a parked freight train.
The impact pushed several coaches of the passenger train onto the opposite track, where they were struck by a passenger train en route from Yeshwanthpur, near Bangalore, to Howrah, West Bengal.
First responders had to spend more than 12 hours cutting through twisted metal to reach the injured and recover the dead, Odisha state’s chief secretary, Pradeep Jena, told the media.
Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw announced that the families of those killed will receive roughly $12,136 in compensation, while survivors with serious injuries can expect to get $2,247.
In 1999, a collision between two trains in West Bengal left 288 dead, while 800 people were killed in 1981 when a train derailed while crossing a bridge and plunged into a river in the northern state of Bihar.
India’s railway network is the fourth-largest in the world after the United States, Russia and China, and transports roughly 23 million passengers a day. EFE daa/ia/dr