Death toll rose to 290-Cause of Odisha train crash identified, CBI will probe

Two days after one of India's worst train accidents at Bahanaga Bazar in Odisha's Balasore district which claimed the lives of more than 290 people,However,Authorities have confirmed only 275 casualties, most railway tracks have been cleared of wrecked railway coaches overnight by a team of bulldozers and cranes so that railway services on the main trunk line connecting eastern and southern India can be restored, railway officials said on Sunday. Death toll rose to 290 while more than 500 injured passengers were hospitalised ,More than 400 relieved from hospital after first medical aid.

The Railway Board has recommended a CBI probe into the Balasore train accident that has so far claimed 275 lives.

“We have recommended a CBI probe into the triple train accident that claimed 275 lives and left over 1,000 injured,” Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told reporters in Bhubaneswar on Sunday evening.

The Centre along with the support of the state government are giving all support to the injured patients who are admitted to various hospitals in Balasore, Cuttack and Bhubaneswar.

“Patients are being given all facilities in hospitals. There are teams of doctors who are taking care of patients round-the-clock,” Vaishnaw said.

He said the government was trying to get in touch with the families of the deceased.

“We are trying to get in touch with families of the dead,” the Minister added.

The Odisha government on Sunday revised the triple train accident’s death toll to 275 from 288, and put the number of injuries at 1,175.

Work on repairing tracks and overhead electric cables which had snapped is also going on, said officials.

Union Ministers Ashwini Vaishnaw and Dharmendra Pradhan who have camped here visited the railway accident site in the early hours of the morning.

"Restoration work is going on at a fast pace ... single line track work, signalling system has almost been completed, overhead electricity work of one track is going on, it will be completed very soon," said Vaishnaw.

Pradhan added that "rescue work is over … we are working with the local administration to send people affected back home." He also said that the big challenge is to restore tracks so that the railway link between two important wings of the country can start functioning.

"By Tuesday we should be able to do it," the minister said.

"We have teams working round the clock. Restoring at least two lines -up and down - is absolutely essential as quickly as possible," a senior railway official at the site said.

"Restoration work on tracks is on. We are also working on overhead cables and masts which were uprooted … soon the down line will be restored and then the up line,” the official said.

A thorough search is being conducted in the passenger coaches which have been removed to check for bodies which may still be in them trapped in crumbled steel parts of the coach.

Railway officials said that all 21 coaches which capsized due to the derailment of trains at Bahanaga Bazar station have been grounded. Now the site is being cleared, he said.

"Further 3 wagons and the locomotive upper part will be grounded," the official said, adding that a special train will start from Bhadrak at 1 pm on Sunday and will run up to Chennai in the path of 12841 Coromandel Express.

It will have stoppages at Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and all other stoppages of 12841 Coromandel Express. Stranded passengers of the train accident and their relatives can avail of the train service, he said.

Sources said that the number of deaths in the triple train crash on Friday has also increased from 288 to 295 but this could not be confirmed as yet.

The triple train pile-up near Balasore on Friday disrupted passenger and goods traffic between important industrial centres. Many of the patients initially admitted to Balasore and other local hospitals have been released or shifted to bigger cities with multi-speciality hospitals including Cuttack, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata.

Most of the dead bodies too have been shifted to a facility in Bhubaneswar, said hospital administrators.

Three trains— Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express, Bengaluru-Howrah super fast and a goods train — were involved in the pile-up, now being described as one of India's worst train accidents.

The Coromandel Express crashed into a stationary goods train, derailing most of its coaches at around 7 pm on Friday. A few coaches of Coromandel toppled over the last few coaches of the Bengaluru-Howrah Express which was passing by at the same time.

Investigators are looking into possible human error, signal failure and other possible causes behind the three-train crash.  The root cause of the three-train crash in Odisha's Balasore district and the people responsible for it have been identified, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said on Sunday.

He also said the Railways is aiming to restore normal services on the affected tracks by Wednesday.

Talking to reporters at the accident site, the railway minister said the issue is of electric point machine, a vital device for railway signalling, and electronic interlocking.

The change that was made to electronic interlocking which led to the accident has been identified, Vaishnaw said while denying that the incident had anything to do with the anti-collision system "Kavach".

The crash involving Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express and Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, which were carrying around 2,500 passengers, and a goods train occurred around 7 pm on Friday near the Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore. At least 288 people were dead and over 1,100 injured in the accident. 

"The enquiry into the accident has been completed and as soon as the commissioner of railway safety (CRS) provides his report all the details will be known.

"The root cause of the horrifying incident has been identified... I do not want to go into details. Let the report come out. I will just say that the root cause and the people responsible have been identified," the railway minister said.

Speaking to PTI, he also said the kin of around 300 accident victims have been provided compensation. "We met the patients and doctors at Soro Hospital. Special trains are being run from Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Ranchi, Kolkata and other places so that patients can reach homes after treatment." Vaishnaw said restoration work was being carried out on a war footing and tracks have already been laid on one of the main lines.

"We have mobilised all resources. I also want to say that Kavach has nothing to do with the accident. This accident occurred due to changes to the electronic interlocking system. The remarks of (West Bengal chief minister) Mamata Banerjee is not true," Vaishnaw said.

"The setting of the point machine was changed. How and why it was done will be revealed in the probe report," he told PTI.

An electric point machine is a vital device for railway signalling for quick operation and locking of point switches and plays an important role in the safe running of trains. Failure of these machines severely affects train movement and deficiencies at the time of installation can result in unsafe conditions.

The preliminary probe report, a copy of which is with PTI, said the signal was given and taken off for the up main line for train number 12841 (Coromandel Express). The train entered the loop line, dashed with the goods train and derailed. In the meantime, train number 12864 (Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express) passed through the down main line and two of its coaches derailed and capsized, the report said.

Vaishnaw, who is on ground zero since Friday night, supervising rescue and relief operations as well as the railway track restoration efforts, said the railway aims to complete restoration work on tracks by Wednesday.

The rescue and relief at the accident site is complete, he said.

Over 1,000 workers are working round-the-clock for early restoration. It has deployed more than seven Poclain Machines, two accident relief trains, and three to four railway and road cranes for the resumption of rail traffic.

The work on repairing tracks and overhead electric lines is in progress.

Earlier in the day, the railway tracks were cleared of wrecked coaches.

In a statement, the South Eastern Railway zone said, "All 21 coaches which capsized and derailed have been grounded. Now the site is being cleared of bogie/ wheels sets and other components. Three goods wagons and locomotive grounding work is going on. Track linking and overhead electric work is going on in parallel."  The Railways is also operating special trains for transporting survivors and relatives of the deceased. he Balasore train accident has brought into focus the automatic train protection system, “Kavach”. It was not available on the route where the accident took place.

The system alerts when a loco pilot jumps a signal (signal passed at danger — SPAD), which is among the leading causes 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.

Alerts when loco pilot jumps a signal, one of leading causes of train collisions

Takes control of brakes, brings train to a halt if it notices another train on same line

Other features include auto whistling at level-crossings, direct loco-to-loco contact

It also helps trains running during inclement weather such as dense fog. “Kavach” has been developed indigenously by the Research Design and Standards Organisation (RDSO) along with three private vendors.

The trials of “Kavach” were conducted on the Lingampally-Vikarabad-Wadi and Vikarabad-Bidar sections, covering a distance of 250 km. Following successful trials, three vendors were approved for further development. The total expenditure is pegged at Rs 16.88 crore.

The roll-out of “Kavach” is planned on the New Delhi-Howrah and New Delhi-Mumbai sections with a target completion date of March next year.

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