Odisha train crash: Toll climbs to 288, initial report blames human error and signal failure

Railway board chairman Anil Kumar Lahoti, who visited the spot, said the Commissioner railway safety of South East Circle AM Chowdhary has been tasked to inquire into the accident.

BAHANAGA: The death toll in the tragic triple-train collision near Bahanaga Bazar railway station in Odisha's Balasore district climbed up to 288 on Saturday as rescue teams recovered more bodies that were trapped inside the ill-fated trains.

The Indian army has also been pressed into service as several passengers are still feared trapped. The casualty figures may rise further.

Tragedy struck when the Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express rammed into a stationary goods train nearly 100 metres before Bahanaga station, about 180 km from Bhubaneswar, and jumped off the track. While at least 12 coaches of the train capsized, its engine went up and landed on the goods train in the impact of the collision.

Railway sources said the tragic accident, one of the deadliest train mishaps after 1990, involved three trains as two general bogies of Sir M Visvesvaraya Terminal Bengaluru-Howrah Daily Superfast Express, which was coming in the opposite direction got derailed after some of the capsized coaches of Coromandel Express collided with them.

An initial joint inspection report by the Kharagpur railway division officials revealed that the track joints were incorrectly positioned, and the signal panel in the station master's room failed to synchronize with them at Bahanaga Bazar station.

"The goods train was in a stationary position on the loop line and the signal was given for movement of the train on the Up line. But we are still unable to understand how the Coromandel Express that was supposed to pass through the Up line (main line) came on the loop line and hit the goods train," said a railway official posted at Bahanaga station on condition of anonymity.

In one of the worst railway disasters in India, at least 280 people were killed and more than 900 injured when three trains collided one after another in a horrific sequence in #Odisha's Balasore district.#BalasoreTrainAccident #OdishaTrainTragedy #TrainAccident pic.twitter.com/HLa6zIzsdB

— The New Indian Express (@NewIndianXpress) June 3, 2023

Railway board chairman Anil Kumar Lahoti, who visited the spot, said the Commissioner railway safety of South East Circle AM Chowdhary has been tasked to inquire into the accident and find out the exact cause.

"No one will be spared. Let the preliminary inquiry get over," he said.

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw also visited the spot and inspected the capsized coaches. He interacted with some of the injured and rescued passengers.

"A high-level probe has been ordered. We will go to the root of the cause. We are now focusing on the rescue operation as a priority. Men and machinery have been mobilized from different places to rescue the trapped passengers and get them treated at the earliest," he said.

ALSO READ: "People were groaning in pain, crying for help": Passengers in Odisha train tragedy recount horror experience

Rabi Ranjan Singh, an engineer from Howrah recalled the horrific moments. "I heard a huge shudder and a sharp jerk accompanied by a screeching sound when we were discussing some family matters. Before I could realize what happened, people in our B1 air-conditioning coach fell one after another. The next thing I knew I was on the floor of the compartment. Luggage was strewn around and some of my co-passengers were shouting."

"By the time we found our feet and looked out the window of the coach, what we saw jolted us further. Barring the B1 and B2 AC coaches, the rest of the AC coaches had jumped off the tracks. We were lucky that the derailment did not cause any major injuries to our nine-member family on board Coromandel Express. The impact on the coaches from the engine was severe," he said.

Singh's family has taken shelter at a nearby building and is planning to go back to Howrah. 

READ MORE: PM Modi to visit train accident site, hospital in Odisha

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

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