UPDATE 2 - More than 280 dead in India train crash, search for survivors continue

UPDATE 2 - More than 280 dead in India train crash, search for survivors continue

Passenger trains derail in eastern Odisha state on Friday evening, nearly 1,100 injured, say officials


By Anadolu staff

ANKARA (AA) – The death toll surpassed 280 in a three-train crash in eastern India, with nearly 1,100 others injured, officials said on Saturday.

The accident occurred in the Balasore district of Odisha state late Friday and a massive rescue operation was launched involving the National Disaster Response Force, military and other agencies, according to officials.

Sudhanshu Sarangi, the state's Director General of the Fire Services Department, Odisha, confirmed the death toll to Anadolu, while a preliminary report released by the state emergency operation center on Saturday morning put the fatalities at 238.

The report said the accident involved Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Coromandel Express, and goods train on "three separate tracks" at Bahanaga market station in the Balasore district.

"17 coaches of these two trains were derailed and severely damaged," it added.

Dattatraya Bhausaheb Shinde, a top official from the Balasore district, told Anadolu that nearly 1,100 people were injured in the crash and shifted to different hospitals.

Atul Karwal, the director general of the National Disaster Rescue Force, called it a very tragic incident and said the ongoing operation would end by Saturday evening.

"The force with which the three trains collided with each other resulted in many coaches getting crushed and in a mangled condition," he said.

- Rescue efforts underway

The authorities in Odisha announced that 200 ambulances and 45 mobile health teams were deployed, as well as additional doctor teams.

Footage from the site showed a large number of rescuers continuing to help passengers trapped on the train early Saturday. It showed immense damage to the coaches in what is the worst-ever train accident in recent Indian history.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who visited the site Saturday, said the focus remains on the rescue.

He said the best possible healthcare facility will be provided to the injured and a high-level committee has been formed to investigate the mishap and to know the root cause of the accident.

He said the probe will reveal how the accident happened.

Railway Ministry spokesman Amitabh Sharma told Anadolu late Friday that the accident occurred when a passenger train derailed and its cars fell on the opposite track. Railway authorities also announced compensation for victims.

"The derailed coaches hit another passenger train, throwing a few coaches of the second train off the track," he said, adding a freight train was also involved.

A survivor, who was onboard the train, said he was asleep when it derailed.

"Ten to 15 passengers fell on my body," he told reporters. "When I came out of the coach, I found someone was without limbs, foot and someone had face injuries as well."

"We were jolted and suddenly saw the train bogie turn on one side. Many of us were thrown out of the compartment by the momentum of the derailment. When we managed to crawl out, we found bodies lying all around," Pijush Poddar from West Bengal state told the Press Trust of India news agency.

The report said the Balasore district hospital "looked like a war zone."

Shortly after the accident, residents rushed to the hospital to donate blood. Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said 500 units of blood were collected overnight in Balasore.

India's South Eastern Railway announced the cancellation and diversions of several trains.

The state's information and public relations department said Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik ordered a one-day mourning period.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "Distressed by the train accident in Odisha. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon."

India has experienced large train accidents. In 2016, more than 140 passengers were killed after a train derailed in northern Uttar Pradesh state.

- Condolences

Several countries conveyed their condolences over the deadly train crash.

Türkiye expressed "deep sorrow over the loss of lives and injuries."

"We extends its condolences to the relatives of those who lost their lives in this tragic accident as well as to the people and government of India and wish a speedy recovery to the injured," said a Foreign Ministry statement.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin also extended his condolences to the people and government of India over the train crash and wished a speedy recovery to the injured.

"Türkiye is ready for any kind of help," Kalin said on Twitter.

Also, US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti extended "deepest condolences" to the families of those who lost their lives in the train accident. "We stand with India and the people of Odisha in this time of grief," tweeted Garcetti.

Nepal's Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal said he is "saddened by the loss of dozens of lives in a train accident."

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadians are standing with the people of India at this difficult time. "The images and reports of the train crash in Odisha, India break my heart. I'm sending my deepest condolences to those who lost loved ones, and I'm keeping the injured in my thoughts," he said.

Embassies of China, Russia, Italy, and Japan in India also posted condolence messages on Twitter.

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