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Odisha Train Tragedy: Death Toll Climbs to 261, PM leaves for accident site

The tragic train derailment in Odisha's Balasore district has claimed the lives of 261 people, with approximately 900 individuals sustaining injuries, according to the South Eastern Railway on Saturday.

Following a review meeting of the accident, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has departed for Odisha.

|Earlier Report : Major Railway Disaster in Balasore : Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express Derails |

Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw visited the accident site on Saturday morning and announced the commencement of a comprehensive high-level inquiry. Additionally, an independent investigation by the rail safety commissioner will be conducted.

The devastating incident occurred on Friday evening when 17 coaches of the Coromandel Express and SMVT-Howrah Super Fast Express derailed, resulting in one of the most catastrophic railway accidents in the country over the past 15 years.

The South Eastern Railway issued a bulletin stating, "Train number 12841 Shalimar-Chennai, Coromandal Express, and Train number 12864 Sir M Visvesvaraya-Howrah Superfast Express derailed near Bahanaga Bazar Railway station at around 6.55 p.m. on June 2."

"Accident relief trains equipped with medical equipment, doctors, and paramedics have been dispatched to the site from Kharagpur and Bhadrak. As of now, there have been 261 fatalities, and around 650 injured passengers have been transported to hospitals in Gopalpur, Khantapara, Balasore, Bhadrak, and Soro."

Speaking to the media at the accident site, Vaishnaw stated, "Our primary focus is on rescue and relief operations. Restoration work will commence once clearance is received from the district administration. A detailed high-level inquiry will be conducted, and an independent investigation will be carried out by the rail safety commissioner."

The South Eastern Railway also confirmed that Vaishnaw is supervising the rescue and restoration efforts.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of Railway Board is present at the Cuttack hospital, while the Director-General of Health, Railway Board is overseeing the treatment of injured passengers at the Balasore hospital.

According to railway officials, the Coromandel Express was en route to Chennai, while the Sir M Visvesvaraya-Howrah Superfast Express was heading towards Howrah with approximately 1,000 passengers.

A senior Railway Ministry official revealed that the tragic accident occurred when the coaches of the Coromandel Express derailed, colliding with stationary goods trains on one side and causing some coaches to topple onto the adjacent rail track where the SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express, traveling from Yashwantpur to Howrah, was approaching.

The SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express collided with the overturned coaches, resulting in the massive accident.

Visuals from the accident site depict the capsized coaches of the two trains stacked on top of each other, while the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and various other agencies utilized gas cutters to rescue survivors from the mangled wreckage.

Over 200 ambulances and 30 buses have been deployed for assistance, as stated by Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena.

He further informed that seven teams from the NDRF, five teams from the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF), 24 fire service units, local police, and volunteers have been tirelessly searching for survivors and recovering bodies trapped amidst the heap of twisted coaches throughout the night.

The Railways have initiated an inquiry by A.M. Chodhary, the Commissioner of Railway Safety for the South Eastern Circle.

A senior Railway Ministry official in Delhi mentioned that the exact number of casualties will only be known once the entire wreckage has been thoroughly examined. The rescue operation is still ongoing.

Several trains on the Chennai-Howrah route, one of the busiest routes for the national transporter, have been canceled by the Railways in response to the tragedy. (Edited)

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