Officials announced Saturday that at least 300 people were killed and more than 850 were injured in a tragic three-train crash in India, the country’s biggest rail catastrophe in more than 20 years.
Near Balasore, in the eastern state of Odisha, images from the crash site revealed crushed train carriages torn open with blood-stained holes.
The carriages had completely toppled over after the disaster late Friday, and rescue personnel was searching for survivors trapped in the twisted wreckage, with scores of victims spread out beneath white blankets beside the tracks.
Rescue crews were able to glimpse the full scale of the carnage as morning broke on Saturday.
The death toll, according to Sudhanshu Sarangi, director general of Odisha Fire Services, was 300
“The rescue work is still going on,” he said from the scene of the disaster, adding that there were “a lot of serious injuries.”
Railway accidents are not uncommon in India, with the deadliest occurring in 1981, when a train derailed while crossing a bridge in Bihar and crashed into the river below, killing between 800 and 1,000 people.
However, Friday’s drop is thought to be the worst since the 1990s.
Odisha state chief secretary Pradeep Jena stated that 850 passengers were injured in the incident, which occurred roughly 200 kilometres from the state capital Bhubaneswar.
“Our top priority now is rescuing (the passengers) and providing health support to the injured,” he said.
Amitabh Sharma, executive director at Indian Railways, told AFP that two passenger trains “had an active involvement in the accident” while “the third train, a goods train, which was parked at the site, also got (involved) in the accident.”
One survivor told local TV news reporters that he was sleeping when the accident happened, and woke to find himself trapped under about a dozen fellow passengers, before somehow crawling out of the carriage with only injuries to his neck and arm.
With so many people hurt, ambulances and buses were used to transport them to any hospital that had space.
According to SK Panda, a spokeswoman for Odisha state’s Jena’s office, “all big government and private hospitals from the accident site to the state capital” were ready to assist the injured.
The spokesman went on to say that officials had dispatched “75 ambulances to the scene as well as many buses” to remove injured people.
Ambulances took patients to Bhadrak District Hospital, where the bleeding and stunned survivors were treated in overcrowded rooms.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed “distress” over the train accident.
“My thoughts are with the bereaved families at this difficult time.” “May the injured recover quickly,” Modi said on Twitter, adding that he had spoken with railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to “take stock of the situation.”
Vaishnaw stated that he was rushing to the accident site, where rescue teams such as the National Disaster Response Force and the air force were working tirelessly.
“Will take all hands required for rescue operations,” he tweeted.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepal’s Prime Minister, expressed his “deep condolences” in “this hour of grief.”
Vedant Patel, a spokesman for the US State Department, said, “Our thoughts are with the people of India at this time.”