Indian train crash: Investigation centers on possible signal failure after recovery efforts

A train crash in eastern India on Friday was the country’s worst train accident in two decades, killing more than 270 people and renewing questions about rail safety – a heavily invested system that millions rely on every day – after a long history of deadly accidents in recent years.

Two passenger trains collided in Odisha’s Balasore district around 7 pm local time on Friday. At least 275 people were killed, according to the state government on Sunday, after an official said some victims had been counted twice, bringing the previous death toll to 288. More than 1,100 passengers were injured.

According to preliminary estimates, the disaster began when the first of two passenger trains hit an idling freight train at full speed and then derailed. A second passenger train, traveling in the opposite direction, then collided with some displaced cars. Officials are keeping an eye on possible signal disturbances.

According to railway officials, the passenger trains had a total of over 2,200 passengers and at least 23 cars derailed. The force of the collision left the cars so mangled that rescue workers used cutting equipment to reach the victims.

One of them is the Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express, South Eastern Railway said. The Coromandel Express The service connects major cities along India’s east coast at relatively high speeds. The other passenger train, the Yeswantpur-Howrah Superfast Express, was traveling from a passenger hub in the southern city of Bengaluru to Kolkata, the capital of the northeastern state of West Bengal.

Indian Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnav has said that an inquiry has been ordered into the cause of the accident and the victims. Compensation will be available.

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The train derailed near Balasore.

The accident took place at Pahanaka Bazar station near Balasore near the coast in the northeastern state of Odisha. The area is known for its ancient temples and history as a 17th century British trading post.

The nearest airport in Odisha’s capital, Bhubaneswar, is several hours’ drive away. May is typically the hottest time of year, and daily temperatures reached around 100 degrees in the days leading up to the crash.

The rescue operation was completed on Saturday. Dozens of trains were canceled, but workers rushed to restore service by pushing the stricken train cars off the tracks. He expects service to resume by Wednesday. Vaishnav said. But the delay means the victims’ families They are still struggling to reach the accident site on SundayAccording to local officials and doctors, many bodies remain unclaimed.

Derailment is minimal.

Often cited as critical to India’s economy, the country’s extensive rail network is one of the largest in the world and is central to lives and livelihoods, especially in rural areas. Almost all of India’s railways, 98 percent, were built between 1870 and 1930. A 2018 study Published in The American Economic Review.

The worst accident in Indian railway history is believed to have occurred in 1981 when a passenger train derailed while crossing a bridge in the state of Bihar. Its cars sank in the Bagmati River, killing 750 passengers; Many bodies were not recovered.

From 1980 to the turn of the century, an average of 475 derailments per year was once the most frequent derailment in India. They are much rarer, averaging just over 50 per year in the decade to 2021. According to a paper Presented by Railway Officials at the World Congress on Disaster Management.

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A railway worker cuts a train track after a derailment in Bukhara, northeast India in 2016.debt…Jitendra Prakash/Reuters

Rail safety has generally improved in recent years, with the number of serious rail accidents gradually declining from more than 300 annually two decades ago to 22 in fiscal year 2020. By 2020, for two years in a row, no passengers have died in train accidents in India — a milestone hailed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. As of 2017, more than 100 passengers were killed each year.

Even so, the casualties continue. In 2016, over 140 passengers were killed and 200 injured when 14 trains derailed in northeast India in the middle of the night. Officials at the time said the cause was likely a “fractured bone” on the rail. In 2017, at least 36 passengers were killed and 40 injured in a night train derailment in southern India.

Friday’s crash was the deadliest since a 1995 clash 125 miles from Delhi that killed more than 350 people.

Modi has prioritized improving transport.

A major reason for improving the safety of trains is the removal of thousands of unsupervised railway crossings, which Mr. Modi’s government said. Relatively low-level engineering work such as laying tunnels and high signal conductors was also greatly reduced. is crumbling.

Mr. Modi has prioritized improving infrastructure across the country, particularly transport systems. In recent years, railroads, among the most visible projects to ordinary citizens, have received attention for a series of high-tech initiatives. Mr. Modi inaugurates electric medium-distance trains and is building a Japanese-style “bullet rail” corridor on the west coast to connect Mumbai with Ahmedabad.

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On Saturday, instead of inaugurating the new train as planned, Mr. Modi visited.

High Speed ​​Rail in Ahmedabad in September.debt…Amit Dave/Reuters

The railway system, particularly train accidents, has long affected the fortunes of India’s politicians. The Cabinet post of Railway Minister is one of the most coveted posts as it is high and influential in business and industry. Suresh Prabhu, credited with designing New Delhi’s world-class subway system, was forced to resign in September 2017 after a series of accidents.

Within hours of Friday’s disaster, some opposition politicians accused Mr. They have already called for Vaishnav’s resignation.

Mujib Mashal Contributed report.

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