Not less than 261 people have been confirmed dead in a train accident believed to be the worst in the Asian country in the last two decades.
Rail authorities say the accident on Friday afternoon occurred after a passenger train went off the tracks and hit a freight train parked nearby in the district of Balasore in Odisha state, leaving a tangled mess of smashed rail cars and injuring 650, chief public relations officer of South Eastern Railway, K. S. Anand, said at a press conference on Saturday morning.
“The collision occurred around 7 p.m. (1330 GMT) on Friday when the Howrah Superfast Express from Bengaluru to Howrah in West Bengal collided with the Coromandel Express from Kolkata to Chennai,” Anand said.
Odisha state Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena, said on Twitter that more than 200 ambulances had been called to the scene and 100 doctors had been mobilised to join 80 already there while Prime Minister Narendra Modi was flying to the scene.
“The state has declared Saturday a day of state mourning as a mark of respect to the victims.”
“It’s a big, tragic accident. Our complete focus is on the rescue and relief operation, and we are trying to ensure that those injured get the best possible treatment,” Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw also said at the press briefing.
“Families of the dead will receive 1 million rupees ($12,000), while the seriously injured will get 200,000 rupees, with 50,000 rupees for minor injuries,” Vaishnaw said.
Video footage of the train accident showed derailed train coaches and damaged tracks, with rescue teams searching the mangled carriages to pull the survivors out and rush them to hospital.
The Friday rail accident is only second to India’s deadliest railway accident which occurred in 1981 when a train plunged off a bridge into a river in Bihar state, killing an estimated 800 people.
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