The death toll in the tragic train derailment in Odisha’s Balasore district has increased to 288, with around 800 people injured, the South Eastern Railway (SER) said on Saturday.
Prime MInister Narendra Modi on Saturday visited the accident site and took stock of the rescue and relief operations and also met with the accident survivors.
Modi said that the government will provide best medical treatment to the injured, adding that those found guilty for the mishap will not be spared.
Earlier in the day, Railway Minister Ashwini Vishnaw also said that a detailed high-level inquiry will be conducted by the rail safety commissioner.
On Friday evening, 21 coaches of the Coromandel Express and SMVT-Howrah Super Fast Express derailed, leading to one of the worst railway accidents in the country in over two decades.
In a bulletin, the SE Railway said: “Train number 12841 Shalimar-Chennai, Coromandel Express and Train number 12864 Sir M Visvesvaraya-Howrah Superfast Express got derailed near Bahanaga Bazar Railway station at around 6.55 p.m. on June 2.
“Accident relief trains with medical equipment, doctors and paramedics were rushed to the site from Kharagpur and Bhadrak. As per the information received till now, there are 288 casualties. At least 56 people have grievous injuries while 747 have simple injuries who have been taken to the hospitals.”
It also said that the SER has run one special train from Howrah to Balasore at 4 p.m. on Saturday carrying the relatives of the affected passengers.
“Railways is taking every initiative to complete the restoration work. Meanwhile, a high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident, which is to be conducted by the Commissioner of Railway Safety, South Eastern Circle,” it said.
About 16 hours after the accident, which involved two Express trains — Coromandel and SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express — and a goods train, the rescue operation was announced to be complete on Saturday afternoon by the Railways, following which restoration work commenced.
According to the Railways, the Coromandel Express with over 1,200 passengers was heading towards Chennai, while the SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express was coming towards Howrah with 1,000 passengers.
A senior Railway Ministry official said that the massive accident happened after coaches of Coromandel Express derailed and hit a standing goods train on one side while some fell on the opposite rail track on which SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express was coming from the Yeshwantpur side and going towards Howrah.
The SMVP-Howrah Express hit the capsized coaches near the Bahanaga Bazar railway station.
According to railway sources, the initial investigation has showed that the Coromandel Express was put on loop line minutes before the accident, where it hit a stationary goods train. However, railway officials have denied the charge and said that a detailed inquiry is on and all the angles of sabotage, mechanical error or human error will be probed extensively.
The visuals from the accident site showed how the coaches of the two trains capsized on each other even as the locomotive of the Coromandel Express jumped on one of the wagons of the goods train. Several teams of NDRF and other agencies used gas cutters to bring out the survivors from the mangled coaches.
Since the accident of Friday evening, more than 200 ambulances along with 30 buses have been pressed into service, Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said.
The Railways has also announced an inquiry by A.M. Choudhary, CRS/SE Circle.
Railways has cancelled several trains on the Chennai-Howrah route, which is one the busiest routes of the national transporter.