The toll in the Friday evening train accident at Bahanaga Bazar railway station of Odisha’s Balasore district rose sharply to 288 on Saturday, while 1,091 injured persons have been provided medical assistance. Of the injured, 56 were stated to be grievously wounded.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited the spot to take stock of the accident — dubbed as one of the most tragic accidents in the country.
A look at how the accident took place in Odisha on the evening of June 2, 2023, according to a Railways statement:
“I took stock of the situation at the site of the tragedy in Odisha. Words can’t capture my deep sorrow. We stand committed to providing all possible assistance to those affected. I laud all those working round the clock, on the ground and helping out in relief work,” Mr. Modi tweeted after his visit to the accident site.
“All types of investigation have been ordered into the incident. Whoever will be found guilty will be given stringent punishment and will not be spared,” the PM announced.
“We will learn from the incident and will strengthen our system, keeping the citizens’ safety the priority,” he said.
Mr. Modi appreciated the Odisha government and its officials for extending all assistance to the accident victims.
While at the accident site, Ms. Banerjee — in the presence of Mr. Vaishnaw — remarked that an anti-collision device could have prevented the accident but the Balasore route did not have one. “There was something (error) behind the accident and it should be probed properly as so many lives have been lost. I have heard that the death toll could rise to 500. Three bogies have not been searched,” she said.
Mr. Vaishnaw retorted immediately by saying that the rescue operation was over and the death toll stood at 238.
Indian Railways earlier issued a statement as to how the accident took place. The ‘up train’ 12841 Coromandel Express (Shalimar-Madras), passing through the Up Main line, met with an accident and rammed into the stationary goods train in the Up Loop Line at Bahanaga Bazar station.
The train was passing through the station at full speed as Bahanaga Bazar was not one of its stops. The impact was such that its 21 coaches went off the rails; three of its coaches infringed upon the other line — the Down Main line.
Simultaneously, ‘down train’ 12864 Yeshwantpur-Howrah Express, passing through Bahanaga Bazar station on the Down Main line, collided with the stray coaches and had its two rearmost coaches derail.
The sound of the collision was so loud that it drew people from villages nearby. Local residents turned into volunteers and broke down the windows to rescue the victims.
“Local youth did not wait for government assistance to come. They contributed from their pockets and sent injured ones to hospitals. Even some autorickshaw drivers shifted injured ones free of cost,” Srikant Mohanty, a local resident, said.
Seven units of the National Disaster Response Force, five units of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force and 24 fire services units were immediately pressed into service. However, the magnitude of the accident was so high that disaster response personnel aided by local people took the whole of Friday night and Saturday morning to pull out the bodies from the wreckage.
In what proved to be a daunting task, more than 100 medical teams with paramedical staff and 200 ambulances were mobilised to the accident site.
Odisha observed Saturday as a day of mourning for the lives lost in the accident. As many as 33 trains were cancelled and 36 were diverted through other routes.