India’s Railway Minister said on Sunday that the cause and people responsible for the country’s worst train crash in decades had been identified, pointing to an electronic signal system without giving further details.
“We have identified the cause of the accident and the people responsible for it,” India’s Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told news agency ANI, but said it was “not appropriate” to give details before a final investigation report.
At least 288 people killed on Friday when a passenger train went off the tracks and hit another one near the district of Balasore in the eastern state of Odisha.
#WATCH | PM Modi visited the accident site and met patients at Baleswar District Hospital yesterday and has given instructions according to which the work is being done. Restoration work is underway. Out of the two main lines, track laying work has been done on one of them and is… pic.twitter.com/ICkscnV8rM
— ANI (@ANI) June 4, 2023
Ashwini said the “change that occurred during electronic interlocking, the accident happened due to that”, a technical term referring to a complex signal system designed to stop trains colliding by arranging their movement on the tracks.
“Whoever did it, and how it happened, will be found out after proper investigation,” he added.
There was confusion about the exact sequence of events but reports cited railway officials as saying that a signaling error had sent the Coromandal Express running south from Kolkata to Chennai onto a side track.
It slammed into a freight train and the wreckage derailed an express running north from India’s tech hub Bengaluru to Kolkata that was also passing the site.
Five more bodies were brought to a school being used as a mortuary near the scene of the accident early on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Odisha state’s chief secretary Pradeep Jena confirmed that about 900 injured people had been hospitalised.
“We do not know how many more bodies will come,” a health worker said.
Also read: At least 288 dead in India's worst train accident in over two decades
Indian Railways says it transports more than 13 million people every day. But the state-run monopoly has had a patchy safety record because of aging infrastructure.
Restoration work is ongoing at Warfooting at train accident site in Balasore, Odisha with 1000+ Manpower working tirelessly. At present, more than 7 Poclain Machines, 2 Accident Relief Trains, 3-4 Railway and Road Cranes have been deployed for early restoration. pic.twitter.com/ufidrkvBwl
— Ministry of Railways (@RailMinIndia) June 3, 2023
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 nearly 1,200 injured.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Odisha’s Balasore after a train crash, India's worst in more than two decades, killed at least 288 people https://t.co/RF5ZRbNkQK pic.twitter.com/Z2SK676vAr
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 3, 2023
Workers with heavy machinery were clearing the damaged track, wrecked trains, and electric cables, as distraught relatives looked on.
“We were called by the police and asked to come,” said Baisakhi Dhar from West Bengal state, searching for her husband Nikhil Dhar.
She said her husband’s luggage and mobile had been found but had no information on his whereabouts.
At a business centre where bodies are taken for identification, dozens of relatives waited, many weeping and clutching identification cards and pictures of missing loved ones.
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.
U.S. President Joe Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron have expressed condolences.