Indian Premier Modi vows punishments over deadly Odisha crash

June 03, 2023
Drone footage shows the devastation after Friday’s train crash
Drone footage shows the devastation after Friday’s train crash

NEW DELHI — People found guilty over a deadly rail accident in eastern India will be “punished stringently”, the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said.

At least 288 people were killed and more than 800 injured in Friday’s incident in Odisha state, involving two passenger trains and a goods train.

Rescue efforts have concluded, with officials saying all trapped and injured passengers have been retrieved.

Modi has visited the scene, labelling the incident a “painful” one.

He also met victims of the disaster in hospital, and vowed that his government would leave “no stone unturned for the treatment of those injured”.

It is still not clear what caused the multi-train collision in Balasore district, which has been described as India’s worst rail accident this century.

An investigation has been launched, although Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has blamed “technical reasons”.

Some 2,000 passengers are thought to have been on board the two passenger trains involved.

The exact sequence of events has been the subject of conflicting accounts.

Officials say several carriages from the Coromandel Express, traveling between Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and Chennai (formerly Madras), derailed at about 19:00 (13:30 GMT) after hitting a stationary goods train.

It remains unclear how the Express ended up on the same track as the goods train.

Several of the Coromandel Express’s coaches then ended up on the opposite track. Another train traveling in the opposite direction — the Howrah Superfast Express traveling from Yesvantpur to Howrah — collided with derailed carriages.

“The force with which the trains collided has resulted in several coaches being crushed and mangled,” Atul Karwal, chief of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) explained to the ANI news agency.

Sounds of ambulance sirens have been going off every 30 minutes outside the trauma center in the SCB hospital in the city of Cuttack — where critically injured passengers have been wheeled in.

So far, close to 200 passengers from the train accident site have been brought in, and the numbers continue to rise.

The hospital is the largest in the state of Odisha, but is still three hours’ drive from the accident site.

The hospital staff — from junior doctors to nurses and ward boys — have been lined up and waiting in groups to assist patients as they are brought in. Wards have been expanded to handle the numbers coming in.

The constant sounds of whistles and announcements by hospital authorities interrupt the chaos.

Family members of the injured are waiting anxiously outside praying for their relatives’ wellbeing. But many are still looking for their loved ones, not knowing their whereabouts.

There is a counter set up to assist people who cannot locate their family members. It is crowded, and the lists run long.

Some people met by the BBC ran from the accident site to nearby hospitals before coming to the facility in Cuttack — searching for their families who were on board the trains. — BBC

June 03, 2023
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