The three-train crash in Odisha, eastern India, has become one of the biggest railway tragedies ever in the country, as the death toll has reached 280 at last count, besides more than 900 injured.
News of the accident broke yesterday, as several bogies of the Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express — going from West Bengal in the east to Tamil Nadu in the south — got derailed while running through Balasore district in Odisha, near Bahanaga Bazar station. The massive derailment occurred as the Coromandel Express hit a freight train that was standing on the same track. The derailed Coromandel coaches tumbled on to the parallel track meant for trains coming from the opposite direction. As a result, the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, which came running on the parallel track — it was going from south to east — hit the already derailed bogies of the other passenger train, thereby becoming derailed itself.
The death toll rapidly climbed in the three-train pile-up, going up to 280 from the initial estimate of about 50.
A massive rescue operation has been launched, with the locals first on the scene. People have readily queued up to donate blood in Balasore and have lent a hand with saving as many passengers as they could, extricating people from the wreckage. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has visited the spot. Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has said that he will visit.
As per reports on the initial rescue measures, Indian Railways and Odisha government have sent four units of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) and three units of the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF), along with 60 ambulances. Dozens of trains have also been cancelled and rerouted.
Even as questions are being raised about the government’s “Kavach” technology, apparently designed to prevent derailment, the Ministry of Railways has announced an ex gratia compensation of INR10 lakh (about USD12,200) for families of the deceased, INR2 lakh for those with serious injuries, and INR50,000 for those with minor injuries. Some compensation has also been announced from the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund.