Odisha: The Odisha government on Sunday said the death toll in the tragic train crash at Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore stood at 275. Unconfirmed reports however put the toll well over 300.
The root cause of the three-train crash in Odisha's Balasore district and the people responsible for it have been identified, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Sunday as rescue work at the site of the accident wrapped up with the Railways aiming to restore normal services on the affected tracks in the next few days.
"Some of the bodies have been counted twice at the accident site and also in hospitals. So, after proper counting, the final death figure stood at 275," said Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Kumar Jena.
Out of 275 dead bodies, 78 bodies were identified and handed over to their family members after the autopsy, he said, adding that the handing over of another 10 bodies was also under process.
Jena said of the remaining 187 bodies, 170 bodies have been brought to Bhubaneswar while another 17 bodies were in transit to the capital city from Balasore.
The bodies have been brought to different mortuaries in Bhubaneswar in a dignified way by 85 ambulances. Only two bodies were brought in each ambulance, he informed.
Govt shares details of unidentified bodies
Stating that the major challenge before the government was to identify the bodies, the chief secretary said, "We have uploaded the pictures of the dead bodies on websites. If someone can identify the body of their family member, he/she can contact the helpline number 18003450061 /1929 (24A-7)."
The government has also taken steps to provide death certificates to the family members of deceased persons in a hassle-free manner, he informed.
As many as 1,175 patients were admitted to various hospitals, out of which 793 have been discharged. Most of the injured patients are in stable condition. A total of 382 passengers were undergoing treatment in various government and private hospitals.
The mishap: What reports said
The crash resulted 'probably by a malfunctioning signalling system that flashed the correct light but switched an unsuspecting Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express to the wrong tracks," The Telegraph newspaper quoted railway officials.
"The Coromandel Express was hurtling along the Up Main Line at 127 kmph around 7 pm when... it was wrongly directed by the interlocking system into a loop line, where a goods train was parked," the officials told the Kolkata-based newspaper.
"As the 12841 Coromandel Express rammed the goods train from the rear, all its 22 coaches derailed. Three of them toppled over to the Down Main Line, along which — in a horrific coincidence — the 12864 Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express was passing exactly then. The derailed Coromandel coaches hit the rear part of the Superfast Express; last few coaches Bengaluru-Howrah train were derailed by the impact," the officials said, according to a report published in The Telegraph Online webiste.
Meanwhile, a Hindustan Times report quoted Railway board member Jaya Varma Sinha who explained how the accident unfolded. She said only the Coromandel Express derailed at the Bahanaga Bazar station triggering the crash.
In all, there are four tracks at the station - two loop lines on either side and two main lines at the centre. At the time of the accident two goods trains were parked on the loop lines and the two main lines were cleared for the Coromandel Express and Bengaluru-Howrah express to pass.
The railway board member said it was the Coromandel Express that derailed and hit one of the good trains triggering the coach pile up and subsequently crashing into the passing Bengaluru-Howrah train. Both passenger trains were cleared to travel at high speeds at the time of the crash.
Tracks to be restored by Tuesday
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik stated that rescue work is over and the government is working with the local administration to send people affected back home.
He also said that the big challenge is to restore tracks so that the railway link between two important wings of the country can start functioning.
"By Tuesday we should be able to do it," the minister said.
A senior railway official at the site said, "We have teams working round-the-clock. Restoring at least two lines -up and down - is absolutely essential as quickly as possible,"
"Restoration work on tracks is on. We are also working on overhead cables and masts which were uprooted soon the down line will be restored and then the up line, the official said.
Railway officials said that all 21 coaches which capsized due to the derailment of trains at Bahanaga Bazar station have been grounded. Now the site is being cleared.
"Further three wagons and the locomotive upper part will be grounded," the official said, adding that a special train will start from Bhadrak at 1 pm on Sunday and will run up to Chennai in the path of 12841 Coromandel Express. It will have stoppages at Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and all other stoppages of 12841 Coromandel Express. Stranded passengers of the train accident and their relatives can avail of the train service, he said.
Railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the kin of around 300 accident victims have been provided compensation.
"We met the patients and doctors at Soro Hospital. Special trains are being run from Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ranchi, Kolkata and other places so that patients can reach homes after treatment."
Restoration work, he said, was being carried out on a war footing and tracks have already been laid on one of the main lines.
"We have mobilised all resources. I also want to say that Kavach has nothing to do with the accident. This accident occurred due to changes to the electronic interlocking system. The remarks of (West Bengal chief minister) Mamata Banerjee are not true," Vaishnaw said.
The crash involving Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express and Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, which were carrying around 2,500 passengers, and a goods train occurred around 7 pm on Friday near the Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore. At least 288 people were dead and over 1,100 injured in the accident, the worst rail accident in India in nearly three decades.
(With agency inputs)