Hundreds of passengers died and almost a thousand were injured as a result of two trains derailing and subsequently crashing in the eastern Indian state of Odisha on Friday.
The death toll rose throughout the night and early into the next morning, reaching 288 people thus far, as rescuers tried to save as many as they could from each of the trains. Working in sweltering conditions, even in the evening temperatures reach up to 96 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees Celsius.
"By 10 p.m. (on Friday) we were able to rescue the survivors. After that it was about picking up dead bodies," Sudhanshu Sarangi, director of Odisha state's fire and emergency department, told The Associated Press. "This is very, very tragic. I have never seen anything like this in my career."
The train derailment occurred when one passenger train went off the tracks, hitting another in the process by accident. Though the investigation to determine the cause is not yet complete, preliminary findings blame the incident on signal failure. A third train was hit as a result of the second being run off course.
"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," K. S. Anand, chief public relations officer of the South Eastern Railway, said.
This incident is being referred to as one of the deadliest train crashes in the country’s history.
Many of the injured were treated on the scene. Other more serious injuries were taken to local hospitals where swarms of people showed up to donate blood and volunteer their efforts.
"As I stepped out of the washroom, suddenly the train tilted. I lost my balance. ... Everything went topsy turvy. People started falling on each other and I was shocked and could not understand what happened. My mind stopped working," Vandana Kaleda, a passenger who survived, said to NPR.
The accident happened to take place at a time when India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is raising awareness of the dangerous railroad system and attempting to modernize the British colonial-era network. Several hundred railroad accidents occur each year in India, the most populous country in the world with a population of 1.42 billion.
Saturday, Modi was meant to unveil a high-speed train connecting two major Indian cities, Goa and Mumbai, equipped with a collision avoidance system. The event was canceled as a result of the accident. The trains involved did not have that system.
"(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," Modi said according to Reuters.
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