India’s worst railway disaster: 233 killed, 900 injured in Balasore; rescue operations on

Officials in Bhubaneswar said 200 ambulances, 50 buses, and 45 mobile health units were working at the accident site, besides 1,200 personnel. The bodies were being taken to the hospitals in all kinds of vehicles, including tractors

By Sri Lakshmi Muttevi  Published on  3 Jun 2023 3:46 AM GMT
India’s worst railway disaster: 233 killed, 900 injured in Balasore; rescue operations on.

Balasore: In one of the worst railway disasters in India, at least 233 people were killed and more than 900 injured when three trains collided one after another in a horrific sequence in Odisha's Balasore district, setting off a massive rescue and evacuation process, officials said on Saturday.

"Death toll rises to 233 in the Balasore Train Accident," Odisha Chief Secretary PK Jena tweeted.

Given the rail accident, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has ordered state mourning for a day. No state celebrations are to take place on June 3.

What happened?

On June 2, at around 7 pm, the train accident happened near Bahanaga Bazar station about 250 km south of Kolkata and 170 km north of Bhubaneswar, when the Coromandel Express was on the way to Chennai Central station from Shalimar station near Kolkata.

Several coaches of the 12864 Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, on the way to Howrah, derailed and fell on adjacent tracks, an official said.

"These derailed coaches collided with the 12841 Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express and its coaches capsized too," he said.

A goods train was also involved in the accident as the coaches of the Coromandel Express hit its wagons after getting derailed.

Locals who heard consecutive loud sounds rushed to the spot and found the derailed coaches, which were nothing but "a mangled heap of steel".

While the number of casualties was 50 at the time of the incident, as rescue operations began by the NDFR teams, the number of deaths increased. By June 3 morning, the number of casualties reached 233.

Injured in different hospitals

Odisha's Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said 900 injured persons were admitted to several hospitals including Soro, Gopalpur, and Khantapada health centers, Balasore Medical College, and Hospital. All government and private hospitals have been put on alert in the nearby districts, including the AIIMS at Bhubaneswar.

Officials in Bhubaneswar said 200 ambulances, 50 buses, and 45 mobile health units were working at the accident site, besides 1,200 personnel. The bodies were being taken to the hospitals in all kinds of vehicles, including tractors.

NDRF, ODRAF, Fire services quick Ops

The rescue teams made out quick rescue operations to evacuate the passengers, and pull out those stuck in between the coaches. Gas cutters were used to extricate the bodies from under the derailed coaches. Some of the scenes at the site were too gory to describe.

Railway tracks were almost destroyed at the spot as mangled coaches lay strewn all over, with some having mounted on another, while a few coaches turned turtle due to the impact.

According to the teams, one severely damaged compartment remains, and the rescue teams are working to cut through it. They suspect passengers might have been stuck in between.

Locals come as savior

Pijush Poddar, a resident of Berhampore in West Bengal's Murshidabad district, was traveling to Tamil Nadu on the Coromandel Express to join work there when the accident happened. "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," he said.

The local people who rushed to the incident site went out on a limb to help the passengers. They not only helped in pulling out people but retrieved their luggage and got them water.

Helpline No's setup

Helpline centers were set up at all major stations including Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada, Srikakulam, Nellore, Balasore, Howrah, Samalkota, Kharagpur, Shalimar, and other districts to help the people know about their families who were stuck in the train accident.

The Odisha government has made arrangements for the stranded passengers to travel to their destinations. Around 247 people were sent in 5 buses from Balasore, and 320 in 8 buses from Baripada. The passengers have been provided with one escort.

Rail Minister announces ex-gratia

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, visited the spot on Saturday morning. He said a high level committee has been formed to inquire about the incident. He said the officials are giving the best possible medical facilities for the affected.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too expressed his distress over the accident and announced an additional ex-gratia of Rs 2 lakh for the next of kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured from the PM's National Relief Fund (PMNRF).

Many donated blood

More than 2,000 people gathered at the Balasore Medical College and Hospital in the night to help the injured, and many also donated blood.

Chief Secretary Jena thanked the volunteers who donated blood to the accident victims in their hour of need.

"Five hundred units of blood collected overnight here at Balasore. Nine hundred units are in stock at present. This will help in treating the accident victims. I'm personally indebted & grateful to all the volunteers who've donated blood for a noble cause," Jena tweeted.

CMs extend help

Expressing concern over the accident, in which a large number of people from West Bengal were involved, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she was monitoring the situation along with the chief secretary and other officials. West Bengal Chief Secretary HK Dwivedi said the state was sending a team led by Minister Manas Bhunia and MP Dola Sen to the spot.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin on Friday spoke to his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik following the accident of the Coromandel Express train and announced that he was sending a four-member panel to coordinate the rescue of Tamils on the train.

Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy chaired a meeting on the accident. He asked to setup inquiry department at Collectorate offices in all districts. He asked officials to alert the hospitals around Odisha's borders, including Visakhapatnam, to be prepared to offer immediate medical care to those who have been injured.

In Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Visakhapatnam, and other districts that are near to the borders of Odisha, the CM directed those ambulances be kept ready to be sent in case of emergency. A team of three IAS officers headed by IT Minister Gudivada Amarnath reached the spot

Probe ordered

Railway Ministry has ordered a probe into the incident. The inquiry into the train accident will be led by A M Chowdhary, Commissioner of Railway Safety, South East Circle, the Indian Railways said in a statement. The Commissioner of Railway Safety comes under the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Inputs from PTI

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