India train disaster: Possible cause fault indication, minister says

  • By Sutik Biswas in Delhi and Adam Durbin in London
  • BBC News

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The BBC’s Archana Shukla in Cuttack: “Misery and chaos” At the hospital treating people injured in the train accident

India’s Railways Minister has suggested that a signal error led to the Odisha train disaster, with “a change in electronic entanglement” the likely cause.

Ashwini Vaishnau later said that the cause and those responsible for the three train crashes in eastern India had been established but did not give details.

A report on India’s worst railway accident this century was released later.

Meanwhile, the death toll was revised to 275 after some bodies were counted twice, according to officials.

Of the 1,175 injured people who were hospitalized, 793 have been discharged. Some families are still searching for their loved ones.

The accident saw a passenger train hit a stationary goods train and derail, after being misdirected into a loop track on the main line side.

Then the derailed carriages hit the rear coaches of a second passenger train passing in the opposite direction.

In a press conference on Sunday, Jaya Verma Sinha of the Indian Railways said the two passenger trains approached the Balasore district station under a green signal – indicating it is safe – within seconds of each other at a correct speed of less than 130 kilometers per hour (81 mph). the hour).

She said that the passenger trains were supposed to pass each other on the main lines, but the Coromandel Express hit a freight train loaded with iron ore on the loop line, causing the engine and some coaches to lift over the heavy goods wagons. .

She told reporters that the passenger train was completely hit and the freight train had not derailed or even moved.

The Howrah Superfast Express had nearly crossed in reverse, but two of his rear coaches were struck by a derailed Coromandel Express.

Ms Verma Sinha said there was “no problem with the electronic entanglement system” and said investigations indicated “some kind of crosstalk” rather than a failure.

“Whether it was manual, accidental, weather-related, associated wear and tear, or due to a maintenance failure, all will come to light after investigation,” she added.

In railway signals, the electronic interlocking system identifies the tracks for each train in a specified area, ensuring the safe movement of trains along the track.

Infrastructure expert Partha Mukhopadhyay told the BBC it should not be possible to display green signals on the main line if the route is set for a loop.

“Entanglement of signals is supposed to be fail-safe and this level of failure is completely unprecedented,” said Mukhopadhyay, of the Delhi-based Center for Policy Research.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the crash site on Saturday and vowed that anyone found guilty would be “severely punished”.

It is believed that around 2,000 people were on board the two passenger trains – the Coromandel Express, traveling between Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) and Chennai (formerly Madras) and the Howrah Superfast Express traveling from Yesvantpur to Howrah – when the accident occurred at around 19:00 (13:00). 30 GMT) on Friday.

Pradeep Gina, an Odisha state official, told the BBC that at least 187 bodies remained unidentified, and officials were uploading photos of the victims to government websites and would carry out DNA testing if necessary.

Officials said salvage work was completed on Saturday, and efforts are underway to clear debris and restart train traffic.

India has one of the largest train networks in the world with millions of commuters using it every day, but much of the railway infrastructure needs to be improved.

Trains in India can be very crowded at this time of year, with more people traveling during the school holidays.

The country’s worst train disaster was in 1981, when an overcrowded passenger train derailed and plunged into a river during a cyclone in Bihar, killing about 800 people.

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