The death toll in the tragic train derailment in Odisha’s Balasore district has increased to 238, with at least 900 people injured, the South Eastern Railway said on Saturday.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Saturday morning visited the accident site and announced a detailed high-level inquiry will be conducted and an independent inquiry by the rail safety commissioner.
On Friday evening, 17 coaches of the Coromandel Express and SMVT-Howrah Super Fast Express derailed, leading to one of the worst railway accidents in the country in the last 15 years.
In a bulletin, the SE Railway said: “Train number 12841 Shalimar-Chennai, Coromandal 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 have rushed to the site from Kharagpur and Bhadrak,” it said.
“As per the information received till now, there are 238 casualties. Around 650 injured passengers have been taken to the Hospitals of Gopalpur, Khantapara, Balasore, Bhadrak and Soro,” the SE Railway said.
It also said that Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has reached the spot and is supervising the rescue operation.
Speaking to media at the accident site, Vaishnaw said: “Our focus is on rescue and relief operations. Restoration will begin after clearance from district administration.”
He said: “A detailed high-level inquiry will be conducted and the rail safety commissioner will also do an independent inquiry.”
According to railways, Coromandel Express was headed towards Chennai, while Sir M Visvesvaraya-Howrah Superfast Express was coming towards Howrah with 1,000 passengers, when this accident took place on Friday evening.
A senior railway ministry official said that the massive train accident happened after coaches of Coromandal Express derailed and hit a standing good trains on one side while some capsised on opposite rail track on which SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express was coming from Yashwantpur side and going towards Howrah.
The SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express hit the capsized coaches and massive accident took place.
The visuals from the accident site showed how the coaches of the two trains capsized on each other while NDRF and several other agencies used gas cutters to bring out the survivors from the mangled coaches.
More than 200 ambulances along with 30 buses have been pressed into service, Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said.
He also said that 7 teams of NDRF, 5 teams of ODRAF and 24 fire service units, local police and volunteers kept up the search for survivors and bodies trapped in the heap of mangled coaches throughout the night.
The Railways have also announced an inquiry by A.M. Chodhary, CRS/SE Circle.
A senior Railway Ministry official in Delhi said that the exact number of casualties will only be clear once the entire wreckage is sifted through.
He said that the rescue operation is still underway.
Railways has cancelled several trains on the Chenaai-Howrah route, which is one the busiest routes of the national transporter.