Indian train disaster death toll rises to 288 as rescuers continue search

India's Odisha state is outlined in red. Image: Google Maps

June 3 (UPI) — The death toll from Friday’s train accident in India‘s Odisha state rose to 288 on Saturday as rescuers looking for survivors used cranes and bulldozers in an attempt to raise mangled rail cars.

An Indian Railways official said the latest death toll was pieced together from reports received as of 2 p.m. Saturday, about 19 hours after a collision involving two passenger trains and a freight train, the Press Trust of India reported.

Nearly 1,000 people were also injured in the accident, one of the worst in the country’s history, which occurred at about 7:20 p.m. Friday local time near the Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore, located about 155 miles south of Kolkata in eastern Odisha state.

The incident began when the Howrah Superfast Express passenger train derailed, causing cars to detach and strike another passenger train, the Coromandel Express from Kolkata to Chennai, on the opposite track.

Some cars of the Coromandel Express then fell on top of a stationary freight train on an adjacent railway track.

Odisha Chief Secretary P.K. Jena told reporters India’s National Disaster Response Force, the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and hundreds of fire service rescuers remained on the scene Saturday, mainly focusing on trying to cut through a severely damaged car that has been blocking relief efforts.

Cranes and bulldozers were deployed to the site and rescuers used gas cutters in a bid to reach trapped survivors, local reports indicated. Wreckage was seen strewn in all directions around the crash site.

NDRF rescuers said they had found 44 victims alive and had removed 71 bodies from the mangled cars since their arrival Friday night. Narendra Singh Bundela, the federal agency’s operations chief, said he hoped to have operations wrapped by by late Saturday.

Indian Railways has ordered a high-level investigation into the cause of the accident.

On Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at Fakir Mohan Hospital in Balasore, where many of the injured have been transported, after earlier inspecting the crash scene.

Government sources told Asian News International the prime minister emphasized a “whole of government” approach to dealing with the massive tragedy.


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