Indian authorities work against time to identify more than 100 dead from train crash

Indian authorities are working to identify more than a hundred of the dead from the train accident that occurred three days ago in the east of the Asian country in which at least 275 people died and more than 1,000 were injured.

A crowd of relatives of the victims has travelled to the capital of the state of Odisha, where the tragedy took place, to try to identify their loved ones.

India’s worst rail accident in the 21st century occurred last Friday when a signaling error, which is under investigation, led a passenger train onto a track occupied by a second parked freight train. At that moment, another passenger train passing through the station collided with both of them.

151 fatalities identified

At first, the rescue forces, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the collision between the three trains, sent the bodies to nearby hospitals. Even a school was turned into a makeshift morgue.

Finally, the authorities on Sunday transferred 193 bodies to the capital of Odisha, better equipped and connected to receive the relatives of the victims.

Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said that out of the 275 deceased, 151 have been identified. “All the bodies are being handed over after due process to be shifted to their destinations. Preparations for transporting the bodies are being carried out by the Odisha Government,” Jena added.

It is a race against time and the authorities have to decide what to do with the bodies that have not yet been identified.

“Maybe a mass cremation. We have to consider that option and we are ready for it,” the city’s top official, Collector Vijay Amruta Kulange, has explained, a move that could come after they take DNA samples from all the corpses.

Rail traffic resumes

After continued efforts to rescue survivors and clear and repair the track where the accident occurred, rail traffic has resumed at that point of the track this Sunday evening.

The Minister of Railways, Ashwini Vaishnaw, has indicated that the origin of the accident is “in the change that occurred during the electronic interlocking”, referring to the complex signaling system that manages traffic on the tracks to avoid train collisions.

The minister has assured that the alleged perpetrators have been identified, but has ruled out giving further details for the moment, as the investigation is still ongoing.

The Directorate of Railways, under the Ministry of Railways, has formally requested the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), India’s top federal agency, to take over the investigation into the serious accident.

Derailment of another train highlights shortcomings

The derailment of a train on Monday also in the state of Odisha has highlighted the shortcomings of the Asian country in terms of safety, with derailments accounting for 70% of accidents.

Monday’s accident left no casualties and involved a freight train that ran off the tracks on the premises of a private factory, but adds to the long list of rail accidents in the country, which has the world’s fourth largest network by length.

These accidents totaled 2,017 between April 2017 and March 2021, according to a recent Auditor General (CAG) report that identified derailment as the most common cause, being behind 70% of the incidents.

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