Indian Train Crash: What We Know

The train crash in eastern India on Friday was the country's worst rail disaster in two decades, killing more than 280 people and renewing questions about rail safety in a country that has invested heavily in the system in recent years after a long history of accidents. death.

The two passenger trains collided around 7pm local time Friday after one of them hit a stationary freight train at full speed and derailed in Odisha state's Balasore district, according to preliminary government reports. At least 288 people died, according to the train operator, and more than 700 passengers were injured — 56 of them with “serious” injuries.

Few details about the cause of the crash have been revealed, though much remains unclear. In a preliminary assessment, officials said it started when the first of two passenger trains hit an idle freight train at full speed, and then derailed. The second passenger train, going in the opposite direction, then crashed into the tracks where several dislocated cars landed.

More than 2,200 passengers were all on the passenger train, according to railroad officials, and at least 23 cars were derailed in the disaster. The force of the crash crushed the car so that rescuers used cutting equipment to reach the victims.

One of those trains was the Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express train, according to South Eastern Railway. That Coromandel Express the service has been known to connect the largest cities on the east coast of India at relatively high speeds. Another passenger train is the Yesvantpur-Howrah Superfast Express train, which runs from the commuter hub in Bangalore to Kolkata, capital city of the eastern state of West Bengal.

India's minister of railways, Ashwini Vaishnaw, said that he had ordered an investigation into the causes and those affected by the accident. will receive compensation.

The accident happened at the Bahanaga Bazar station near Balasore, a seaside town in the north-eastern state of Odisha, known for its ancient temples and history as a 17th-century British port.

Balasore is a few hours by car to the nearest airport, in Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha. May is usually the hottest time of year, and daily highs were around 100 Fahrenheit in the days before the crash.

Officials said all hospitals in the area were on standby. Days of mourning were declared in Odisha, which is home to 45 million people, and dozens of trains were cancelled.

Often referred to as the lifeline of India's economy, the country's extensive rail network is one of the largest in the world, and is vital to life and livelihoods in India, especially in its more rural enclaves. Nearly all of India's railroads, 98 percent, were built from 1870 to 1930, according to a 2018 report. Study published in the American Economic Review.

The deadliest accident in Indian rail history is believed to have occurred in 1981, when a passenger train derailed while crossing a bridge in the state of Bihar. His car sank into the Bagmati River, killing some 750 on board; many bodies are never found.

Slips were once common in India, with an average of 475 per year from 1980 to around 2002. They have become much rarer, with an average of more than 50 per year in the decade leading up to 2021, according to a paper by railway officials presented at the World Congress on Disaster Management.

Rail safety in general has improved in recent years, with the total number of serious rail accidents dropping steadily to 22 in the 2020 fiscal year, from more than 300 annually two decades ago. In 2020, for the second year in a row, India recorded no passenger deaths in rail crashes — a milestone hailed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government as an achievement. Until 2017, more than 100 passengers died each year.

Even so, fatal accidents still occur. In 2016, 14 train cars derailed in northeast India in the middle of the night, killing more than 140 passengers and injuring 200 others. Officials at the time said “cracks” in the tracks may have been the cause. In 2017, a late night derailment in southern India killed at least 36 passengers and injured 40 others.

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

The main reason for improving rail safety is the elimination of thousands of unmanned rail crossings, which the government says Mr. Modi has accomplished in 2019. Low level engineering work to build underpasses and install more signal conductors has also been drastically reduced. crashes.

Mr Modi made it a priority to improve the infrastructure, especially the transportation system, across the country. In recent years, the railroad, among the most visible projects to ordinary citizens, has received attention for a series of high-tech initiatives. Mr Modi has inaugurated a medium-distance electric train and is building a Japanese-style “bullet train” corridor on the west coast to link Mumbai with Ahmedabad.

But on Saturday, instead of inaugurating the new train as scheduled, Mr. Modi visits the train crash site.

The rail system, and especially train accidents, have long influenced the fate of Indian politicians. The position of cabinet minister of railways is one of the most sought-after positions due to its high profile and influence in business and industry. Suresh Prabhu, who is credited with designing New Delhi's world-class subway system, was pressured to resign from his post in September 2017, after a series of accidents.

Hours after Friday's debacle, several opposition politicians have called for Mr. Vaishnaw, Minister of Railways of India.

Mujib Mashal reporting contribution.