India Train Crash: What We Know About the Deadly Accident in Odisha

The train crash in eastern India on Friday was the country’s worst rail disaster in two decades, killing more than 270 people and renewing questions about rail safety in a country that has invested heavily in systems – on which millions of people rely on every day – in recent years after a long history of deadly accidents.

The two passenger trains collided around 7pm local time Friday after one of them hit a stationary freight train at full speed and derailed in Odisha state’s Balasore district, according to preliminary government reports. At least 275 people died, the state government said on Sunday, revising the previous death toll to 288 after an official said some of the victims had been counted twice. More than 1,000 passengers were injured.

In initial assessments, officials said the disaster started when the first of two passenger trains hit a freight train that was not running at full speed, and then derailed. The second passenger train, going in the opposite direction, then hit several dislocated cars. Officials focused on signal issues as a possible cause.

More than 2,200 passengers were all on board the passenger train, according to railway officials, and at least 23 cars were derailed. The force of the crash crushed the car so that rescuers used cutting equipment to reach the victims.

One of those trains was the Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express train, according to South Eastern Railway. That Coromandel Express the service connects the largest cities on the east coast of India at relatively high speeds. Another passenger train is the Yesvantpur-Howrah Superfast Express train, which runs from a commuter hub in the southern city of Bengaluru to Kolkata, the capital city of the north-eastern state of West Bengal.

India’s minister of railways, Ashwini Vaishnaw, said that he had ordered an investigation into the causes and those affected by the accident. will receive compensation.

The accident occurred at the Bahanaga Bazar station near Balasore, a town near the coast in the northeastern state of Odisha. The area is known for its ancient temples and history as a trading post for England in the 17th century.

Balasore is a few hours by car to the nearest airport, in Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha. May is usually the hottest time of year, and daily temperatures top out at around 100 degrees in the days before the crash.

The rescue operation finished on Saturday. Dozens of trains have been cancelled, but crews managed to restore service in both directions Sunday night after removing the carriages that had fallen off the tracks. But the delay left families struggling to reach the crash site, and many bodies remain unclaimed, according to local officials and doctors.

Often considered vital to India’s economy, the country’s extensive rail network is one of the largest in the world, and is a center of life and livelihoods, especially in its more rural enclaves. Nearly all of India’s railroads, 98 percent, were built from 1870 to 1930, according to 2018 study published in The American Economic Review.

The deadliest accident in Indian rail history is believed to have occurred in 1981, when a passenger train derailed while crossing a bridge in the state of Bihar. His car sank into the Bagmati River, killing some 750 on board; many bodies are never found.

Derailments have been common in India, with an average of 475 per year from 1980 to around the turn of the century. They are becoming much rarer, with an average of more than 50 per year in the decade leading up to 2021, according to a paper by railway officials presented at the World Congress on Disaster Management.

Rail safety in general has improved in recent years, with the total number of serious rail accidents dropping steadily to 22 in the 2020 fiscal year, from more than 300 annually two decades ago. In 2020, for the second year in a row, India recorded no passenger deaths in rail crashes — a milestone hailed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Until 2017, more than 100 passengers died each year.

Even so, fatal accidents still occur. In 2016, 14 coaches of a train derailed in northeastern India in the middle of the night, killing more than 140 passengers and injuring 200 others. Officials at the time said “cracks” in the tracks may have been the cause. In 2017, a late night derailment in southern India killed at least 36 passengers and injured 40 others.

Friday’s crash was the deadliest since at least a crash in 1995 about 125 miles from Delhi that killed more than 350 people.

The main reason for the increase in train safety is the elimination of thousands of unattended railroad crossings, which the government says. Modi has accomplished in 2019. The relatively low engineering work to build underpasses and install more signal conductors has also been drastically reduced. crashes.

Mr Modi made it a priority to improve the infrastructure, especially the transportation system, across the country. In recent years, the railroad, among the most visible projects to ordinary citizens, has received attention for a series of high-tech initiatives. Mr Modi has inaugurated a medium-distance electric train and is building a Japanese-style “bullet train” corridor on the west coast to link Mumbai with Ahmedabad.

But on Saturday, instead of inaugurating the new train as scheduled, Mr. Modi visits the train crash site.

The rail system, and especially train accidents, have long influenced the fate of Indian politicians. The position of cabinet minister of railways is one of the most sought-after positions due to its high profile and influence in business and industry. Suresh Prabhu, who is credited with designing New Delhi’s world-class subway system, was pressured to resign from his post in September 2017, after a series of accidents.

Within hours of Friday’s debacle, several opposition politicians had called for Vaishnaw’s resignation.

Mujib Mashal reporting contribution.

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