At Least 261 Dead in India's Worst Train Accident in Over Two Decades
TEMPO.CO, Bhubaneswar - At least 261 people have died in India's worst rail accident in over two decades, officials said on Saturday, June 3, after a passenger train went off the tracks and hit another one in the east of the country.
One train in Friday's accident also hit a freight train parked nearby in the district of Balasore in Odisha state, leaving a tangled mess of smashed rail cars and injuring 1,000.
A possible signal error led to the tragedy, according to an initial government report seen by Reuters.
The death toll has reached 261, said K. S. Anand, chief public relations officer of South Eastern Railway. The AFP news agency had earlier quoted an official as saying 288 people had died.
Surviving passenger Anubha Das said he would never forget the scene. "Families crushed away, limbless bodies and a bloodbath on the tracks," he said.
Video footage showed derailed train coaches and damaged tracks, with rescue teams searching the mangled carriages to pull the survivors out and rush them to the hospital.
People were seen searching for their relatives at the site and nearby hospitals.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached the scene, talked to the rescue workers, and inspected the wreckage. He is likely to visit hospitals and see the survivors.
A witness involved in rescue operations said the screams and wails of the injured and the relatives of those killed were chilling. "It was horrific and heart-wrenching," he said.
Families of the dead will receive 1 million rupees ($12,000), while the seriously injured will get 200,000 rupees, with 50,000 rupees for minor injuries, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said. Some state governments have also announced compensation.
"It's a big, tragic accident," Vaishnaw told reporters after inspecting the accident site. "Our complete focus is on the rescue and relief operation, and we are trying to ensure that those injured get the best possible treatment."