‘Signaling issue’ likely cause of major train crash in India: Ministry

‘Signaling issue’ likely cause of major train crash in India: Ministry

Hundreds killed, injured in train derailment in eastern India

By Anadolu staff

ANKARA (AA) – A preliminary investigation into the train derailment last week in eastern India that killed more than 270 people and injured hundreds of others has suggested that an issue related to the signaling system is likely the cause of the three-train crash, the country's Railway Ministry said on Sunday.

"Prima facie, it looks like there have been some issues with signaling. Our commissioner of railway safety is conducting an inquiry. Let them come up with detailed findings and we can then get to know what led to this unfortunate incident," Jaya Verma Sinha, a senior railway official, told reporters.

Indian Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said Sunday that the railway board has recommended that the train accident case be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The crash Friday evening in Balasore district in Odisha state involving two passenger trains and a freight train killed at least 275 people and injured over 1,000 others in what is regarded as the country's worst rail disaster in recent history.

A massive rescue operation was immediately launched involving the National Disaster Response Force, the Indian military and other agencies, which has now concluded.

Briefing the media, Sinha said the ongoing investigation will provide the exact cause of the incident.

She said that one of the trains -- the high-speed Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express -- met with the accident and the other passenger train and freight train came under its impact.

"The train was running at 128 kilometers (80 miles) per hour," she said, adding it rammed into the freight train loaded with iron ore, which was stationary, and the express passenger train took the entire impact.

Sinha said the rear two coaches of the other passenger train, the Howrah Superfast Express, which was passing at the same time on another railway line, were also affected by the derailed Coromandel Express.

Railway Minister Vaishnaw, who had been at the site since Saturday morning, told a local news agency that the "root cause" and people responsible had been identified.

He said a change in the electronic interlocking system was made which led to the accident.

"Who did it and how it was done, the investigation report will reveal that," he added.

He said the focus now is on the restoration work.

Officials said the electronic interlocking system prevents unnecessary delays and makes rail travel more secure.

Indian Railways have announced a high-level probe into the incident. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who reviewed the relief work at the crash site on Saturday, said those found guilty will be severely punished.

On Sunday, Odisha's Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said the death toll had been revised from 288 to 275 as in some cases, bodies were counted more than once. He added that of the 1,175 injured, 793 have been discharged.

With most of the bodies still not identified, local authorities have now published photos of the deceased online so that their family members can identify them.

Meanwhile, railways said late Sunday that first train movement started after 51 hours of derailment “on down line at Bahanaga Bazar near Balasore in Odisha.”

India is no stranger to large railway accidents. In 2016, more than 140 passengers were killed after a train derailed in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

​​​​Several countries have conveyed their condolences over the deadly train crash.

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