Two days after one of India’s worst train accidents at Bahanaga Bazar in Odisha’s Balasore district, two railway tracks have been made fit to carry trains after bulldozers and cranes removed capsized coaches on the main trunk line connecting eastern and southern India.
The government on Sunday said both the Up and Down railway tracks at Balasore accident site have been repaired.
Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw tweeted that track linking Up-line has been restored and overhead electification work has also started.
‘Track linking of Up-line has been done at 16.45 hours. Overhead electrification work started,’ Vaishnaw tweeted on Sunday.
He had earlier tweeted that the down line which links Howrah has been restored.
Officials said this implies that at least one set of railway tracks were now fit for trains, but more time will be required to fix all tracks, which include loop lines, at the Balasore accident site.
The Odisha government on Sunday also revised the triple train accident’s death toll to 275 from 288, and put the number of injuries at 1,175.
Chief Secretary P K Jena told newspersons some bodies were counted twice.
“After detailed verification and a report by Balasore District Collector, the final toll has been fixed at 275,” he said.
Union Ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Dharmendra Pradhan who have camped in Balasore visited the railway accident site Sunday.
Pradhan added that ‘rescue work is over — we are working with the local administration to send people affected back home’.
“By Tuesday we should be able to do it,” Pradhan said.
IMAGE: Debris being removed from railway tracks at the end of rescue and search operation after an accident involving three trains, near Bahanga Bazar railway station in Balasore district, on Sunday, June 4, 2023. Photograph: Swapan Mahapatra/PTI Photo
Later, Vaishnaw said on Sunday that the root cause of the accident has been identified.
The change that was made to electronic interlocking which led to the accident has been identified, Vaishnaw said while denying that the incident had anything to do with the anti-collision system ‘Kavach’.
“The inquiry into the accident has been completed and as soon as the commissioner of railway safety (CRS) provides his report all the details will be known.
“The root cause of the horrifying incident has been identified… I do not want to go into details. Let the report come out,” the railway minister said.
Senior railway officials said, “We have teams working round the clock”.
“Restoration work on tracks is on. We are also working on overhead cables and masts which were uprooted,” the official said.
A thorough search is also being conducted in the passenger coaches which have been removed to check for bodies which may still be in them trapped in crumbled steel parts of the coach.
Odisha Chief Secretary PK Jena told newspersons at Bhubaneswar Sunday that 88 bodies have been identified so far and 78 handed over to their families while 187 were yet to be identified.
The chief secretary said proper identification of the bodies was the biggest challenge.
IMAGE: Restoration work underway at the site of the accident. Photograph: Kind courtesy @dpradhanbjp/Twitter
“DNA sampling will be done and photographs of the deceased will be uploaded on government websites,” he said.
Jena said nine teams of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), five Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) units and 24 fire services teams were engaged in the rescue operations, which are now complete.
Railway officials said all 21 coaches which capsized due to the derailment of trains at Bahanaga Bazar station have been grounded. Now the site is being cleared, he said.
The triple train pile-up near Balasore on Friday disrupted passenger and goods traffic between important industrial centres.
Many of the patients initially admitted to Balasore and other local hospitals have been released or shifted to bigger cities with multi-speciality hospitals including Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata.
Most of the dead bodies too have been shifted to a facility in Bhubaneswar, said hospital administrators.
Odisha Police Sunday appealed to all sections to desist from circulating rumours giving a communal colour to Balasore’s triple train accident and warned that severe legal action will be initiated against those found trying to create communal disharmony by spreading any rumours.
A senior Bangladeshi diplomat, Sheikh Marefat Ali Islam, on Sunday visited Soro Hospital in Odisha’s Balasore district to provide consular assistance to Bangladeshi passengers injured in the triple train crash.
Islam told PTI that few Bangladeshi passengers were recuperating in different hospitals in Odisha but there was no news of death of any citizen of that country in the crash.
“One Bangladeshi passenger admitted at a Bhadrak hospital was discharged after treatment. Another has been referred to SCB Medical College in Cuttack. On Saturday, I had visited a Balasore hospital,” he said.
“If there’s any information on injured Bangladeshi patients, please dial our deputy high commission at Kolkata,” Marefat, second secretary in the Bangladesh deputy high commission which looks after eastern India, added.
Three trains — Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express, Bengaluru-Howrah super fast and a goods train — were involved in the pile-up on Friday, being described as one of India’s worst train accidents.
The Coromandel Express rammed into a stationary goods train and many of its carriages overturned including some onto another train, the Bengaluru-Howrah superfast express, which was also passing by at the same time on Friday.
Investigators are looking into possible human error, signal failure and other possible causes behind the three-train crash.