Odisha train crash: Indian Railways initiate high-level probe, prelim inquiry reports states signal “given and taken off”

Balasore: At time of accident, Coromandel Express was at a speed of 128 kmph, Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express was running at a speed of 116 kmph

BY | Sunday, 4 June, 2023

Indian Railways has initiated a high-level probe into the accident that will be headed by the commissioner of railway safety, South Eastern Circle, officials said.

While sources had earlier said a signalling failure could be the reason behind the crash, railway officials said it is not yet clear if Coromandel Express entered the loop line and hit the stationary goods train or it first derailed and then hit the parked train after entering the loop line.

The preliminary inquiry report, a copy of which is with PTI, said the signal “was given and taken off for the up main line for train number 12841 (Coromandel) but the train entered the up loop line and dashed with the goods train which was on the loopline and derailed”.

“In the meantime, (train number) 12864 (Howrah Superfast) passed through the down main line and two coaches of it derailed and capsized.”

The loop lines of the Indian Railways are constructed in a station area — in this case, the Bahanagar Bazar station — to accommodate more trains to ease out the operations.

While Coromandel Express was at a speed of 128 kmph, Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express was running at a speed of 116 kmph. The report has been submitted to the Railway Board, sources said.

These trains generally run up to a maximum speed of 130 kmph.

“A M Chowdhary, CRS, SE Circle, will inquire into the accident,” a spokesperson of the Indian Railways said.

None of the authorities talked about any possibility of sabotage.

“The rescue operation has been completed. Now, we are starting the restoration work. Kavach was not available on this route,” Indian Railways Spokesperson Amitabh Sharma said.

The railway is in the process of installing “Kavach”, an anti-train collision system, across its network.

Ashwini Vaishnaw, Union Minister for Railways (second from left) at the accident site in Balasore

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the accident site in Balasore on Saturday. He also met injured passengers at a hospital. He had said, “Stringent action will be taken against those found guilty in the train accident incident. No one will be spared.”

He also promised, “We will give the best possible treatment to those injured in this tragedy”.

Read more: Odisha train accident: PM Modi inspects site; MoCA asks airlines to check any abnormal airfare surge

Around 1,200 personnel, 200 ambulances, 50 buses, and 45 mobile health units worked at the accident site, with officials saying the tragedy was compounded due to multiple tracks passing through an embanked area.

Army columns, including engineering and medical personnel, were rushed from Barrackpore and Panagarh in West Bengal. Two Mi-17 helicopters were deployed to evacuate the injured passengers, a defence official said on Saturday.

The engine drivers and guards of two passenger trains were injured and were being treated in different hospitals, a railway official said.

The engine driver and the guard of the goods trains escaped unhurt, the official added.

Policemen and locals were volunteering to donate blood at Balasore district hospital and other hospitals through the night, said officials.

More than 2,000 people gathered at the Balasore Medical College and Hospital on Friday night to help the injured, and many also donated blood, the officials said.

Many bodies at the morgue were unidentified as relatives were yet to make their way to the town with many train services cancelled or delayed due to the accident on a major railway trunk route.

Around 90 trains were cancelled, mostly in the Southern and South Eastern Railway Zones, while 46 were diverted and 11 short-terminated

The injured have been rushed to Balasore, Soro, Bhadrak, Jajpur Hospital and SCB Medical College in Cuttack.

“There were injured people having big cuts on their faces and bodies and fractures on their limbs and severed body parts. We gave them water and bedsheets from our coaches to be made into make-shift bandages to wrap around their wounds so that the bleeding would stop,” Anubhav Das, a Ph.D. scholar who was on the Coromandel Express on his way back home to Cuttack, said.

Doctors from AIIMS-Bhubaneswar have been dispatched to Balasore and Cuttack in Odisha to assist in the relief operations at the train accident site, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said.

“Two teams of doctors from AIIMS-Bhubaneswar have been dispatched for Balasore and Cuttack to assist in relief operations at the rail accident site in Odisha,” Mandaviya said on Twitter.

“We are providing all required help and medical assistance to the victims of the tragic train accident to save precious lives,” he added.

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