Odisha train accident: CBI commences probe, files FIR; over 100 bodies yet to be identified

Bhubaneswar: The Railways on Tuesday put the official death toll in the Odisha triple train crash at 278, stating that three more people have succumbed to their injuries.

"About 1,100 people were injured in the accident, out of which about 900 people were discharged after treatment. Around 200 people are being treated in various hospitals in the state. Out of 278 people who died in the accident, 101 bodies are yet to be identified," Divisional Railway Manager of the Eastern Central Railways Rinkesh Roy told news agency ANI.

Meanwhile, the CBI on Tuesday started its investigation into alleged criminal negligence leading to the Balasore train accident after registering an FIR, officials said.

A team of CBI officials, along with forensic experts, has reached Balasore district in Odisha and started the probe immediately after the registration of the FIR Tuesday afternoon, they said.

The central probe agency was roped in by the Ministry of Railways after a preliminary inquiry flagged tampering with the electronic interlocking system, which detects the presence of trains, and officials suspected "sabotage" behind the Friday accident.

"The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered a case on the request of Ministry of Railways, consent of the Odisha government and further orders from DoPT (Govt. of India) relating to the train accident involving Coromandel Express, Yashwantpur-Howrah Express and a goods train at Bahanaga Bazar in the state of Odisha on 2nd June, 2023," the CBI spokesperson said.

The agency, which has little expertise in dealing with the functioning of railways, may need the help of rail security and forensic experts to get to the bottom of the case, the officials said.

Following the laid down procedure, the central agency took over the FIR registered by the Balasore GRP on June 3 under IPC sections 337, 338, 304A (causing death by negligence) and 34 (common intention), and sections 153 (unlawful and negligent action endangering lives of Railway passengers), 154 and 175 (endangering lives) of the Railways Act.

According to the procedure, the CBI re-registers the local police case as its own FIR and starts the probe. It can add or remove a charge from the FIR in its charge sheet filed after its investigation.

Talking to reporters in Odisha on Sunday, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw had said, "We have recommended a CBI probe into the triple train accident...."

The three-train crash occurred around 7 PM on Friday near the Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore district.

The accident, one of the worst train tragedies in the country, claimed 278 lives and left more than 1,100 people injured.

Both passenger trains were at high speed, and experts have cited it as one of the main reasons for the high number of casualties.

Official toll at 278

Though the Railways revised the toll, the state government's revised toll remained unchanged at 275.

Khurda Road Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) Rinkesh Roy said on Monday that apart from 278 deaths, 1,100 people were injured in the June 2 accident. The toll was earlier put at 288, which the state government revised to 275 on Sunday, claiming some bodies were counted twice.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, also a former Railway Minister, questioned the figures, stating that 61 people from her state have died and 182 others are still missing.

Roy said of the 1,100 injured, less than 200 are undergoing treatment in various hospitals.

He said that of the 278 bodies, 177 have been identified while 101 more are yet to be identified and these unclaimed bodies have been kept in six different hospitals.

Roy said the Railways has deployed people in states such as Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to locate any missing person.

He said the bodies will be preserved in a scientific manner.

(With PTI inputs.)

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