Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said people found ‘guilty’ for the deadly train crash in India will receive the ‘harshest punishment’.
At least 288 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in Friday’s accident in Odisha’s Balasore district state.
On his visit to the crash site yesterday, Modi also pledged to look after the families of those killed and injured in the accident.
“This is a very big, painful and disturbing incident, those family members who have been injured, the government will leave no effort for their well-being,” he said.
“Those we have lost will not come back, the government is with the families in hour of grief. It’s a very serious matter of concern for the government.
“Instructions have been given for all types of enquiries and the guilty should get the harshest punishment, they will not be spared.”
A preliminary report indicated that the accident was caused by signal failure, leading one passenger train to come off the tracks and hit another one. A further freight train was involved in the incident that took place around 7pm local time on Friday.
K S Anand, chief public relations officer of the South Eastern Railway, said: “The Coromandel Express was supposed to travel on the main line, but a signal was given for the loop line instead, and the train rammed into a goods train already parked over there.
“Its coaches then fell onto the tracks on either side, also derailing the Howrah Superfast Express,” he said.
Many bodies remain in the wreckage of the trains, and the death toll is expected to continue rising.
Passenger Anubha Das said he would never forget the scene.
“Families crushed away, limbless bodies and a bloodbath on the tracks,” he said.
Video footage showed derailed train coaches and damaged tracks, with rescue teams searching the mangled carriages to pull the survivors out and rush them to hospital.
Bodies were lying on the bloodstained floor of a school used as a makeshift morgue, and police helped relatives identify the bodies, covered with white cloths and placed inside chained bags.
Modi talked to rescue workers and inspected the wreckage. He also met survivors at hospitals.
“(I) took stock of the situation at the site of the tragedy in Odisha. Words can’t capture my deep sorrow. We stand committed to providing all possible assistance to those affected,” he said.
Families of the dead will receive one million rupees ($12,000), while the seriously injured will get 200,000 rupees, with 50,000 rupees for minor injuries, railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said. Some state governments have also announced compensation.
“It’s a big, tragic accident,” Vaishnaw said after inspecting the accident site. “Our complete focus is on the rescue and relief operation, and we are trying to ensure that those injured get the best possible treatment.”
“I was asleep,” an unidentified male survivor told NDTV news. “I was woken up by the noise of the train derailing. Suddenly I saw 10-15 people dead. I managed to come out of the coach, and then I saw a lot of dismembered bodies.”
Video footage showed rescuers climbing on one of the mangled trains to find survivors, while passengers called for help.