Condolences on India train crash toll of over 280

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NEW DELHI, June 3, (Agencies): Rescuers found no more survivors in the overturned and mangled wreckage of two passenger trains that derailed in eastern India, killing more than 280 people and injuring hundreds in one of the country’s deadliest rail crashes in decades, officials said Saturday. Chaotic scenes erupted after the derailment on Friday night about 220 kilometers (137 miles) southwest of Kolkata, as rescuers climbed atop the wrecked trains to break open doors and windows using cutting torches.

Rescuers work at the site of passenger trains accident, in Balasore district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Saturday, June 3, 2023. Rescuers are wading through piles of debris and wreckage to pull out bodies and free people after two passenger trains derailed in India, killing more than 280 people. Hundreds of others were trapped inside more than a dozen mangled rail cars, in one of the country’s deadliest train crashes in decades. (AP)

The death toll rose steadily throughout the night. Scores of bodies, covered by white sheets, lay on the ground near the tracks while locals and rescuers raced to free the hundreds of people trapped in the rail cars under the twisted metal and broken glass. Army soldiers and air force helicopters joined the effort. An Associated Press photographer saw bodies still entangled in a badly mangled coach, as rescuers struggled to retrieve them working under the oppressive heat with temperatures reaching up to 35 degree Celsius (96 degrees Fahrenheit).

“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.” At least 280 bodies were recovered overnight and into Saturday morning, he said. About 900 people were injured and the cause was under investigation. Meanwhile, in Kuwait, His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah on Saturday sent a cable of condolences to Indian President Droupadi Murmu over a train crash in India’s eastern Odish State, which left hundreds of people dead or injured, while wishing a swift recovery for the injured. His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al- Sabah also sent a cable of condolences to Indian President Droupadi Murmu. The Kuwait Foreign Ministry on Saturday expressed sympathy with India in the aftermath of trains’ collision in the east of the nation where hundreds of people perished or got injured.

The ministry expressed solace to New Delhi, the Indian government and people, on this painful affliction and wished the injured quick recovery. The accident occurred at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is focussing on the modernization of the British colonial-era railroad network in India, which has become the world’s most populous country with 1.42 billion. Despite government efforts to improve rail safety, several hundred accidents occur every year on India’s railways, the largest train network under one management in the world. Modi flew to the crash site and spent half an hour examining the relief effort and talking to rescue officials. He was seen giving instructions on the phone to officials in New Delhi. He later visited a hospital where he walked around inquiring from doctors about the treatment being given to the injured, and spoke to some of them, moving from bed to bed in a ward.

Modi told reporters that it was a sad moment and he was feeling the pain of those who have suffered in the accident. He said the government would do its utmost to help them and strictly punish those found responsible. Modi on Saturday was supposed to inaugurate a high-speed train connecting Goa and Mumbai that is equipped with a collision avoidance system.

The event was canceled after Friday’s accident. The trains that derailed did not have that system. Amitabh Sharma, a Railroad Ministry spokesperson, said the rescue work was near completion. Rail authorities will start removing the wreckage to repair the track and resume train operations, he said. About 200 of the severely injured people were transferred to specialty hospitals in other cities in Odisha, said P.K. Jena, the state’s top administrative official. Another 200 were discharged after receiving medical care and the rest were being treated in local hospitals, he added. Scores of people also showed up to donate blood.

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