Disasters & Accidents

Indian authorities race against time to identify victims’ bodies after deadly train crash

By David Asta Alares

New Delhi, Jun 5 (EFE).- Three days after a triple-train crash that killed 275 people and wounded more than 1,000 in eastern India, more than a hundred of the victims have still not been identified, sending authorities in a tizzy.

A crowd of bereaved relatives have arrived in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the Odisha province where the accident took place on Friday, to try and identify their loved ones.

However, the scale and seriousness of the accident and the amount of time that many of the bodies spent in the open has made the work difficult, Bhubaneswar’s municipal commissioner Vijay Amruta Kulange told EFE.

The authorities have been forced to consider cremation of the rapidly decomposing corpses after collecting DNA samples .

“Main challenges for identification is that because of decomposition, the dead bodies were open to environment for more than 36 hours. That is why infection and decomposition started very fast,” Kulange said.

Local broadcasters have aired footage of hospitals and health centers being flooded by agitated family members, comparing the photos printed by authorities or displayed on screens with the images on their phones.

India’s worst railway accident of the 21st century took place on Friday in the Balasore district, when an error in the signaling system led a passenger train into the path of a stationary goods train and resulted in a deadly collision.

Soon after, a third passenger train collided into the two derailed trains.

Initially, rescue teams overburdened by the magnitude of the tragedy sent dead bodies to nearby hospitals and even a school was converted into an improvised morgue.

Finally, authorities transferred 193 corpses to Odisha’s capital on Sunday, as the city is better equipped and connected to receive the victims’ families.

After the bodies arrived in various Bhubaneswar hospitals, a control room has been set up to provide photos of the victims from various angles to the searching relatives, while the images have also been put up on the internet.

Kulange said that more than 70 victims had already been identified since the system was set up.

So far, 151 of the total 275 victims have been identified according to a tweet by Odisha’s chief secretary Pradeep Jena.

“All bodies after due process are being handed over for transfer to destination. Arrangements for free transportation of the bodies by hearses/dead body carriers till destination made by #OdishaGovt #OdishaCares,” Jena added.

As authorities try to complete the process in a race against time, they have to decide what to do with the unidentified bodies.

“Maybe a mass cremation ,we have to take that call and we are ready for it,” said Kulange, adding that this measure would only be taken after DNA samples are collected. EFE


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