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High-level committee formed to probe Odisha train tragedy: Railway Minister Vaishnaw

Vaishnaw added that the Railway, NDRF, SDRF and the state government are jointly conducting the rescue operation
Last Updated : 03 June 2023, 09:29 IST

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Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Saturday said a high-level committee has been formed to probe the Odisha train derailment incident, involving the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express and a goods train. Vaishnaw made the remarks as he took stock of the situation at the site of the tragedy in Balasore.

Responding to reporters' queries, the minister said, "It's a tragic accident. The Railway, NDRF, SDRF, and the state government are conducting the rescue operation. Best possible healthcare facilities will be provided. Compensation (to the families of the deceased) was announced yesterday. A high-level committee has been formed to inquire into the incident."

He added, "Our focus is on rescue and relief operations. Restoration will begin after clearance from the district administration. A detailed high-level inquiry will be conducted and the rail safety commissioner will also conduct an independent inquiry."

Vaishnaw on Friday announced an ex-gratia of Rs 10 lakh for the kin of the deceased, along with Rs 2 lakh for those grievously injuried and Rs 50,000 for those with minor injuries.

The high-level probe will be headed by the commissioner of railway safety, South Eastern Circle, officials said on Saturday.

The commissioner of railway safety works under the Ministry of Civil Aviation and investigates all such accidents.

"A M Chowdhary, CRS, SE Circle, will inquire into the accident," a spokesperson of the Indian Railways said.

261 people are currently reported dead.

The train crash, the fourth deadliest in India according to available records, happened near the Bahanaga Baazar station in Balasore district, about 250 km south of Kolkata and 170 km north of Bhubaneswar, around 7 pm on Friday.

Wielding gas torches and electric cutters, rescuers worked through the night to pull out survivors and the dead from the mangled steel of three trains that derailed one on top of another in a horrific sequence in Balasore district, officials and witnesses said Saturday.

Officials in Bhubaneswar said 200 ambulances, 50 buses and 45 mobile health units were working at the accident site, besides 1,200 personnel. The bodies were being taken to the hospitals in all kinds of vehicles, including tractors.

Several coaches of the 12864 Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, on the way to Howrah, derailed and fell on adjacent tracks, an official said.

"These derailed coaches collided with the 12841 Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express and its coaches capsized too," he said.

A goods train was also involved in the accident as some of the coaches of the Coromandel Express, which was heading to Chennai, hit its wagons after getting derailed, he added.

The Indian Railways is in the process of installing "Kavach", an anti-train collision system, across its network. The national transporter has said "Kavach" was not available on the route.

"The rescue operation has been completed. Now, we are starting the restoration work. Kavach was not available on this route," Indian Railways Spokesperson Amitabh Sharma said.

Kavach alerts when a loco pilot jumps a signal (Signal Passed at Danger -- SPAD), which is the leading cause of train collisions. The system can alert the loco pilot, take control of the brakes and bring the train to a halt automatically when it notices another train on the same line within a prescribed distance.

This is a developing story. More to follow.

With inputs from PTI.

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Published 03 June 2023, 02:46 IST

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