On Saturday, rescuers combed through the wreckage and ruins of two derailed passenger trains in India in an effort to retrieve bodies and free people. More than 280 people were killed, and around 900 were injured in the accident, which occurred around 220 kilometers (137 miles) southwest of Kolkata on Friday night. It was one of the deadliest train crashes in the country in decades.
Keen to help, rescuers worked hard to break open doors and windows using cutting torches to free survivors who were trapped in more than a dozen mangled rail cars. Over 288 dead bodies were recovered overnight, and more than 800 injured passengers were taken to hospitals, with many in critical condition. The search operation was still ongoing as it was feared that the death toll would rise further.
Sudhanshu Sarangi, director of Odisha’s fire department, said it was unlikely that anyone still trapped in the destroyed rail cars would still be alive. Amitabh Sharma, a railroad ministry spokesperson, said ten to twelve coaches of one train derailed, and debris from some of the mangled coaches fell onto a nearby track, which was then hit by another passenger train coming from the opposite direction, resulting in three coaches of the second train derailing too. It was reported by the Press Trust of India that a third train carrying freight was also involved. However, there was no immediate confirmation from railroad authorities.
Local villagers, in addition to rescuers and police, helped evacuate people from the site after they heard a loud sound created by the train coaches going off the tracks. Rupam Banerjee, a survivor, said the locals were of great help as they not only helped pull out people but retrieved their luggage and provided them with water. Vandana Kaleda, another survivor, said that inside the train during the derailment people were “falling on each other” as her coach shook violently and veered off the tracks.
The Coromandel Express, which was traveling from Howrah in West Bengal state to Chennai, the capital of southern Tamil Nadu state, was the train involved. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his thoughts with the bereaved families and said he had spoken to the railway minister and that “all possible assistance” was being offered.
Unfortunately, train accidents in India are all too common due to human error or outdated signaling equipment. In August 1995, two trains collided near New Delhi, killing 358 people. In 2016, a passenger train slid off the tracks between Indore and Patna, resulting in 146 people losing their lives. As many as twelve million people ride 14,000 trains across India every day, making use of 64,000 kilometers (40,000 miles) of track.