A day after at least 288 people lost their lives and over 1,000 people were injured in an accident involving three trains at Balasore’s Bahanaga Bazaar railway station in Odisha, the reason behind the crash still remains unclear.
The preliminary report on the tragedy said that the three-way accident involved Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Coromandel Express and goods train on three separate tracks at Bahanaga Bazar Station in Balasore district. It had said that 17 coaches of these two trains were derailed and severely damaged in the accident that occurred on Friday evening.
According to the Odisha health department, 1,175 patients were admitted to private hospitals out of which 793 patients have been discharged till now while 382 patients continue to be in hospital of which two are critical, rest all are stable.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other leaders visited the tragedy site.
PM Modi, who reached the train crash site in Odisha’s Balasore, said that those who are guilty will not be spared.
The Prime Minister took stock of the situation from ground zero and also visited the accident survivors, admitted to the hospital.
At the site PM Modi spoke to Cabinet Secretary and Health Minister and asked them to ensure all needed help is provided to the injured and their families, government sources said.
After taking stock of the crash incident, PM Modi visited Fakir Mohan Hospital, Balasore, where some of the passengers injured in Friday’s accident involving three trains were admitted.
“It’s a painful incident. The government will not be able to bring them back, who lost their lives [in the accident], but the government is with their kin in this grief. This incident is very serious for the government. The government will leave no stone unturned for the treatment of those injured. Instructions have been given for every type of investigation and whoever is found guilty will not be spared,” PM Modi said.
He also thanked the people of Odisha, who came forward to help crash survivors, whether by donating blood or providing assistance in the rescue operation.
Apart from this, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also reached the mishap site and announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the victims, belonging to West Bengal.
She also termed the incident as “biggest railway accident of the 21st century”.
Banerjee, who met Union Minister for Railways Ashwini Vaishnaw took aim and said that the crash could have been averted if trains were equipped with the anti-collision system.
“Coromandel is one of the best express trains. I was the Railway Minister thrice. From what I saw, this is the biggest railway accident of the 21st century. Such cases are handed over to Railway’s safety commission and they investigate and give a report. There was no anti-collision device on the train, as far as I know. Had the device been on the train, this would not have happened. The dead can’t be brought back but now our work is rescue operation and restoration of normalcy,” Banerjee said while addressing the reporters in the presence of the Union Railway minister.
Both Vaishnaw and Mamata disagreed on the death toll in the Odisha train accident with their argument caught on camera.
Vaishnaw, who was standing with Mamata Banerjee while she was interacting with the media, sought to correct her when she suggested that the death toll could be as high as 500.
“I have heard it could be 500,” she said, adding that rescue work had not been completed in three bogies.
Vaishnaw said that rescue work has been completed.
She asked what is death toll after the completion of rescue work. Vaishnaw responded that 238 people had died in the accident that involved two passenger trains and a goods train and added that the figure was according to the data from the state government.
However, Mamata Banerjee insisted that the death toll figure given by the union minister was of Friday.
“It was yesterday. We have information from yesterday that it is 238…what the issue is we can talk about it together,” she said.
Later, Vaishnaw sought to play down the disagreement with Mamata Banerjee, saying this is not time to do politics but to see that restoration happens quickly.
“We want full transparency, this is not time to do politics, this is time to focus on making sure that restoration happens at the earliest,” he said when asked about Mamata Banerjee disagreeing with him on the death toll.
Taking note of the incident, former Union Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav called for a high-level inquiry into the matter.
Alleging negligence, in an apparent reference to the BJP-led Central Government, without naming them, Yadav said, “The manner in which they showed negligence and didn’t show alertness led to such a large number of casualties”.
“There should be a high-level inquiry and action should be taken against those responsible for it…There was major negligence. They have destroyed Railways,” the RJD chief had said.
The incident also provided fresh ammunition to the opposition leaders, including Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, who demanded the resignation of the Railway minister.
As per the latest updates, the restoration work was initiated in the evening and is underway with over 1000 persons working tirelessly to move away the wreckage and mangled coaches of derailed trains from the track.
“At present, more than seven poclain machines, two accident relief trains, and 3-4 railway and road cranes have been deployed for early restoration,” the Ministry of Railways said.
This report is filed by ANI news service.