India’s Train Crash: What We Know


A devastating train accident in eastern India on Friday was the country’s worst train accident in two decades, killing more than 280 people. It renewed questions about rail safety in a country that has invested heavily in the system in recent years after a long history of deadly crashes.

In Balasore district of Odisha state, two passenger trains collided around 7 pm local time on Friday when one of them hit a stationary freight train at full speed and derailed, according to a preliminary government report. At least 288 people were killed, and more than 700 passengers were injured – 56 of them with “serious” injuries, according to the train operator.

Details about the cause of the accident are unclear, but officials have said it began when the first of two passenger trains collided with an idle freight train at full speed. Another passenger train heading in the opposite direction also hit a track, on which some cars fell. According to railway officials, the passenger trains were carrying a total of more than 2,200 passengers, and at least 23 cars were derailed in the disaster. The force of the collision damaged the cars so much that rescue workers used cutting equipment to reach the victims.

According to the South Eastern Railway, one of the trains was the Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express train. The Coromandel Express The service is known for connecting the largest cities on India’s east coast at relatively high speeds. The second passenger train was the Yeshwantpur-Howrah Superfast Express train, which ran from a commuter hub in Bangalore to Kolkata, the capital of the eastern state of West Bengal.

Indian Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnav said that he has ordered an inquiry into the cause of the accident and that the people affected by the accident Compensation will be received.

The accident happened at Bahanaga Bazar station near Balasore, a city near the coast of eastern Odisha state (formerly Orissa), known for its ancient temples and its history as a 17th-century British seaport. Coastal areas along the Bay of Bengal are prone to tropical cyclones, especially in October and November.

Balasore, in the northeastern part of the state, has a railway station but the nearest airport is several hours by car, in Bhubaneswar, Odisha’s capital. May is usually the hottest time of year, and the daily high temperature in the days before the crash was around 100 Fahrenheit.

Officials said that all the hospitals in the area are on standby. A day of mourning was declared in Odisha, home to 45 million people, and dozens of trains were cancelled.

Often referred to as the lifeline of India’s economy, the country’s vast rail network is one of the largest in the world and is critical to life and livelihood in India, particularly in rural areas. According to a 2018, almost all rail lines in India, 98 percent, were built from 1870 to 1930. the study Published in the American Economic Review.

The deadliest accident in Indian railway history is believed to have occurred in 1981, when a passenger train derailed while crossing a bridge in the state of Bihar. Its cars sank in the Bagmati River, killing an estimated 750 passengers; Many bodies were never recovered.

Derailments were once frequent in India, with an average of 475 per year from 1980 to about 2002. They have become much less common, with an average of 50 per year in the decade to 2021, according to a the paper Presented at World Congress on Disaster Management by Railway Officials.

Rail safety has generally improved in recent years, with the total number of serious rail accidents in the 2020 financial year rising to 22 consecutively from more than 300 annually two decades ago. As of 2020, for two consecutive years, India has not recorded any passenger deaths in such episodes. It was a first, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government hailed it as an achievement. As of 2017, more than 100 passengers were killed every year.

Despite this, fatal accidents continue. In 2016, 14 trains derailed in northeast India in the middle of the night, killing more than 140 passengers and injuring 200 others. At the time, officials said a “fracture” in the track may be to blame. In 2017, at least 36 passengers were killed and 40 others injured in a late-night derailment in southern India.

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

The main reason for the improved safety was the elimination of thousands of unmanned railway crossings, which Mr. Modi’s government said was achieved in 2019. The relatively low-level engineering work of building underpasses and installing more signal conductors greatly reduced crashes.

Mr Modi has made it a priority to improve infrastructure across the country, particularly transport systems. In recent years, railroads, among the most visible projects to ordinary citizens, have received attention for a series of high-tech initiatives. Mr. Modi is inaugurating electric medium-range trains and building a Japanese-style “bullet train” corridor on the west coast to connect Mumbai with Ahmedabad.

On Saturday, however, instead of inaugurating the new train as scheduled, Mr. Modi visited the site of the train accident.

The rail system, and train accidents in particular, have long influenced the fortunes of India’s politicians. Being high profile and influential in business and industry, the Cabinet position of Railway Minister is one of the most sought after. Suresh Prabhu, who is credited with designing New Delhi’s world-class subway system, was forced to resign in September 2017 after a series of minor accidents.

Some opposition politicians were calling for Mr. Vaishnav’s resignation within hours of Friday’s disaster. That he is also the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology suggests that within India’s array of development projects, railways have become less important. But they still command the power to attract the attention of the wider public.

Mujeeb Mashal Contributed reporting.

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