More than 200 people have been killed and hundreds injured in a collision involving two passenger trains and a goods train in the Indian city of Balasore, in one of the worst rail crashes in recent history.
At least 233 people have died and 900 are injured, state chief secretary Pradeep Jena said on Twitter following the disaster in eastern Odisha state on Friday.
The death toll is expected to rise as teams carry out a colossal rescue operation, Jena told a press conference.
Images from the scene showed rescuers attempting to find survivors in a damaged rail carriage. Video footage also showed upturned coaches littered across train tracks, and people climbing a mangled train carriage.
Friday’s rescue effort included more than 115 ambulances and several fire service units, say authorities. About 500 units of blood were collected overnight with 900 units currently in stock, Jena wrote on Twitter.
“This will help in treating the accident victims. I’m personally indebted and grateful to all the volunteers who’ve donated blood for a noble cause,” he wrote.
The cause of the catastrophic crash has yet to be determined, Jena told CNN affiliate News18, emphasizing that the current focus is on ongoing rescue operations.
“We are only working (at) sending additional doctors, ambulances, buses, so all those things we are doing so we have not thought of asking what happened, how it happened,” he said.
The deadly collision occurred after one passenger train collided into coaches of an already derailed passenger train that had tossed into the opposite track, Indian authorities said.
Both trains then derailed.
“An unfortunate accident took place between Coromandel Express, a goods train and another passenger train near Bahanaga railway station in Balasore district,” Jena said.
“Around 7 p.m., 12841 Coromandel Express, which runs between Shalimar and Chennai, around Balasore, 10 to 12 of its coaches derailed and tossed over to the opposite track. After some time, another train, which runs between Yesvantpur and Howrah, dashed into those derailed coaches, which resulted in the derailment of its three to four coaches,” Railway Spokesperson Amitabh Sharma told reporters.
The Coromandel travels through India’s east coast, between West Bengal’s capital Kolkata to the South Indian city of Chennai.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his condolences on Friday. “Distressed by the train accident in Odisha. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon. Rescue ops are underway at the site of the mishap and all possible assistance is being given to those affected,” he wrote.
India’s extensive rail network suffers from aging infrastructure and poor maintenance – factors that are often responsible for accidents.
The death toll from Friday’s crash has already surpassed that of an infamous crash in 2016 – one of the deadliest in recent years – when over 140 people were killed in a derailment in northern Uttar Pradesh state.
In 2021, some 16,431 people were killed in nearly 18,000 railway accidents across the country. “Majority (67.7%) of railway accident cases were reported (as) ‘Fall from trains /collision with people on track,” according to a 2021 report by the National Crime Records
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said he will visit the site of the accident on Saturday morning to review the situation, the department said.
The families of those killed on Friday will receive $12,136, India’s Minister for Railways, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology has announced, with lesser amounts available to people who were injured in the crash.