PM Modi to visit accident site; CM Siddharamaiah sends Minister Santosh Lad for Kannadigas’ help
New Delhi: At least 288 people (numbers till 12.30 pm today) were killed and around 900 were injured in a horrific three-train collision in Odisha’s Balasore last night, the country’s deadliest rail accident in more than 20 years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the train accident site and meet with injured people at hospitals in Cuttack, sources said. Modi chaired a high-level meeting in Delhi this morning to review the situation along with Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other Ministers.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddharamaiah has deputed a team led by Minister Santosh Lad to ensure the safety of Kannadigas in the incident. He sought reports from the Chief Secretary and directed the concerned officers to visit the spot to ensure the safety of Kannadigas and provide all necessary support to them.
A team headed by Minister Santosh Lad, accompanied by Manoj Rajan, Commissioner, Disaster Management and other officers has already left for Balasore.
The crash involved the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, and a goods train. The accident saw one train ram so hard into another that carriages were lifted high into the air, twisting and then smashing off the tracks. Another carriage had been tossed entirely onto its roof, crushing the passenger section.
The accident may have been the result of human error since the train took the wrong track minutes before the tragedy, according to initial reports from the signalling control room of the Railways. To be sure, the cause of the accident will only be identified after a thorough examination.
According to a video from the signalling control room of Kharagpur division of the Railways, the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express took a loop line where the goods train was parked just after crossing Bahanagar Bazaar Station at about 6.55 pm on Friday, instead of the main line, according to a senior Railway official
The Coromandel Express, running at about 127 km per hour, collided with the goods train and derailed on the main line, an official from the Railway Ministry said. Within minutes of the collision, the Howrah-bound Yesvantpur Express coming from the opposite side collided with the Coromandel Express.
“How it happened and why it happened, will be found in the detailed inquiry that the Railway Board has ordered. But prima facie it appears to be a human error,” the official said.
A similar accident occurred in 1995 in Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh, where three trains collided. Around 350 persons were killed in that accident and the rescue operations went on for three days.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said a high-level committee will be set up to investigate the train crash. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has declared one-day State mourning in view of the horrific train crash. Vaishnaw has announced compensation of Rs. 10 lakh for those who have died, Rs. 2 lakh for those seriously injured and Rs. 50,000 for those who sustained minor injuries in the accident.
PM Modi too expressed his distress over the accident, and announced a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh for the family of the dead and Rs. 50,000 for the injured from the PM’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF).
Over 48 trains have been cancelled, 39 diverted and 10 trains have been short terminated due to the accident, which happened on the Howrah-Chennai main line in the Kharagpur division of the South Eastern Railway.