Heavy machinery remove damaged coaches from the railway tracks at the site of a train collision following the accident in Balasore district in the eastern state of Odisha, India, June 4, 2023. Image Credit: REUTERS

Bahanaga: Indian authorities said they had concluded rescue operations on Sunday after the country’s deadliest rail crash in more than two decades, with signal failure emerging as the likely cause of death for at least 275 people.

The death toll from Friday evening’s crash was revised down from 288 after it was found that some bodies had been counted twice, said Pradeep Jena, chief secretary of the eastern state of Odisha.


The tally is unlikely to rise, he told reporters. “Now the rescue operation is complete.” But nearly 1,200 were injured when a passenger train hit a stationary freight train, went off the tracks and hit another passenger train passing in the opposite direction near the district of Balasore.

State-run Indian Railways, which says it transports more than 13 million people every day, has been working to improve its patchy safety record, blamed on ageing infrastructure.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces an election due next year, visited the scene on Saturday to talk to rescue workers, inspect the wreckage and meet some of the injured. “Those found guilty will be punished stringently,” Modi said.

Preliminary investigation

A preliminary investigation indicated the Coromandel Express, heading to Chennai from Kolkata, moved out of the main track and entered a loop track a side track used to park trains at 128 kph, crashing into the freight train parked on the loop track, said Railway Board member Jaya Varma Sinha.

That crash caused the engine and first four or five coaches of the Coromandel Express to jump the tracks, topple and hit the last two coaches of the Yeshwantpur-Howrah train heading in the opposite direction at 126 kph on the second main track, she told reporters.

This caused those two coaches to jump the tracks and result in the massive wreckage, Sinha said.

The drivers of both passenger trains were injured but survived, she said.


Workers with heavy machinery were clearing the damaged track, wrecked trains and electric cables, as distraught relatives looked on.

Railway officials and electricians repair the electrical segment of the railway track during the restoration work after the major train accident at Bahanaga in Balasore on Sunday, June 4, 2023. Image Credit: ANI

More than 1,000 people were involved in the rescue, the Railway Ministry said on Twitter.

“The target is by Wednesday morning the entire restoration work is complete and tracks should be working,” said Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw.

Dial 139 helpline for any assistance
Arrangements have been made at the Railways dedicated helpline number 139 to facilitate family and relatives of deceased persons and passengers stranded in the tragic train accident in Odisha.

Ministry of Railways in a release Sunday said a team of senior officers is manning the helpline round the clock and will provide all the relevant details to the callers.

"The aim of the Railway Helpline 139 is to provide a helping hand and to give correct and satisfactory information to the aggrieved passengers and their kins in this trying time," the release said.

This helpline is also intended to ensure prompt disbursal of ex-gratia announced - Rs 10 Lakh in case of death; Rs 2 Lakh towards grievous injuries and Rs 50,000 for minor injuries.

At a business centre where bodies were being taken for identification, dozens of relatives waited, many weeping and clutching identification cards and pictures of missing loved ones.

Kanchan Choudhury, 49, was searching for her husband at the centre. Five people from her village were on the train, four of them being treated at the hospital for injuries. Her husband was found dead, she said, weeping as she waited to claim compensation, carrying her and her husband’s identity cards.

Families of the dead will get 1 million rupees ($12,000) in compensation, while the seriously injured will get 200,000 rupees, with 50,000 rupees for minor injuries, Vaishnaw said on Saturday.

Relatives of the passengers injured in the Balasore train accident get emotional at Rajiv Gandhi government hospital, in Chennai on Sunday, June 4, 2023. Image Credit: Anathakrishnan L

Expert doctors from Delhi being rushed to Odisha

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Sunday took a review meeting with senior doctors and officials of AIIMS, Bhubaneshwar, where they discussed medical attention for those injured in the Odisha train accident.

They also discussed the procedures regarding embalming of bodies of the deceased and subsequently handing them over to respective family members.

Mandaviya informed that a medical team, comprising experts, from Delhi has reached Bhubaneswar to provide critical care.

"More than 1,000 people are injured in this terrible accident and their treatment is underway. Over 100 patients need critical care and for their treatment, expert doctors from Delhi AIIMS, Lady Hardinge Hospital and RML Hospital along with modern equipment and medicines have reached here," he said, adding, they had a detailed discussion and a working plan has also been prepared.

Copy of India_Train_Derailment_29919--88216-1685778827094
Rescuers work at the site of passenger trains accident, in Balasore district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Saturday, June 3, 2023. Two passenger trains derailed in India, killing more than 200 people and trapping hundreds of others inside more than a dozen damaged rail cars officials said. (AP Photo) Image Credit: AP
India's deadliest rail accidents
Here are details of some of the deadliest rail accidents in recent decades in India, where a railway official said at least 275 people were killed in a train crash in eastern state of Odisha on Friday.

June 1981: At least 800 people are killed when seven rear coaches of an overcrowded passenger train are blown off the track and fall into a river during a cyclone.

July 1988: An express train leaves the rails and plunges into a monsoon-swollen lake near Quilon in southern India, killing at least 106 people.

August 1995 - At least 350 people are killed when two trains collide 200 km (125 miles) from Delhi.

August 1999 - Two trains collide near Calcutta, leading to the deaths of at least 285 people.

October 2005: Several coaches of a passenger train derail in southern Andhra Pradesh state, near Velugonda. At least 77 people are killed.

July 2011: Around 70 people are killed and over 300 injured when a mail train derails in Fatehpur.

November 2016: Some 146 people are killed and more than 200 injured when an express train derails in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

January 2017: At least 41 people are killed after several coaches of a passenger train go off the rails in southern Andhra Pradesh state.

October 2018: A commuter train runs through a crowd gathered on the tracks for a festival in northern India's Amritsar city, killing at least 59 people and injuring 57.