The death toll rose to 280 on Saturday as rescuers continued to sift through the wreckage of one of the country’s worst train derailments in eastern India in decades.
More than 900 people were injured when a passenger train derailed in Odisha, 137 miles southwest of Kolkata. Some debris from the crash was scattered on another track and at least three cars from the second passenger train derailed, railway ministry spokesman Amitabh Sharma said.
A third freight train was also involved in the accident, local media reported.
“It’s very, very sad. I have never seen anything like this in my life,” Odisha state fire and emergency department director Sudanshu Sarangi told The Associated Press.
Here’s what we know about the crash and rescue operation:
Are rescuers still searching?
Officials said there were no more survivors and the bodies of those who died in the accident were being recovered overnight.
“By 10 pm (Friday) we managed to rescue the survivors. After that it was about picking up the dead bodies,” Sarangi said.
About 200 of the most seriously injured were taken to specialist hospitals in the region, and another 200 were evacuated after treatment on Friday night, said senior official PK Jena. Hundreds of injured are being treated in local hospitals.
Longer trains, less staff:The Minnesota rail derailment earlier this year follows years of railroad cost-cutting
“The challenge now is to identify the bodies. Where relatives can provide evidence, the bodies are handed over after post-mortems. If not identified, perhaps we have to go for DNA testing and other protocols,” he said.
About 1,200 rescue workers worked through the night with 115 ambulances, 50 buses and 45 mobile health units, officials said. Saturday was declared as a day of mourning in the state. People from the local village also rushed to the spot and helped.
The rescue scene was chaotic at times, with people clambering over broken pieces of trains to break open doors and windows. The bodies were lying on the floor covered with white sheets. Rescue workers worked in oppressive heat, with temperatures reaching 96 degrees.
What caused the accident?
The accident happened around 7 pm local time. Reuters reported. One of the derailed trains was the Coromandel Express, which was traveling from Howrah in West Bengal to Chennai, the capital of southern Tamil Nadu, the Press Trust of India reported. Another train, the Howrah Superfast Express, was traveling from Bengaluru in Karnataka to Howrah, officials said.
It was not immediately clear which train derailed first. An initial government report cited a signal error as the likely cause of the derailment, according to Reuters et al The New York Times reported.
South Eastern Railway Chief Public Relations Officer Aditya Kumar Chaudhary told The Times that further investigation is needed to confirm the cause.
A passenger, Vandana Kaleda, said the accident caused people to fall on each other as her coach jolted violently and derailed.
“When I came out of the washroom, suddenly the train tilted. I lost my balance. … all topsy turvy. People started falling over each other and I was shocked and didn’t understand what happened. My mind stopped working,” he said.
Another survivor said he was asleep and woken up by the impact. He said NDTV He saw people with mangled limbs and disfigured faces.
Are train accidents common in India?
Friday’s crash was one of India’s worst accidents in decades. In 2016, 146 people were killed and over 200 injured when a passenger train derailed between Indore and Patna. In 2018, at least 60 people were killed when a train rammed into a crowd of people watching a fireworks display during a religious festival in northern India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is focusing on modernizing the railways in the country. He was scheduled to launch a high-speed train between Goa and Mumbai with new collision-avoidance technology on Saturday, but the event was canceled after Friday’s accident. The trains that crashed on Friday had no new system.
India, which has the largest railway network under one administration in the world, has hundreds of train accidents every year.
What you need to know about train safety in the US
America sees thousands of its own train derailments and accidents. Safety data from 2021 to 2022 found an average of three derailments each day on U.S. railroads.
Most aren’t dangerous or dramatic enough to make the news, but they can be expensive: Railroads must report any derailment that causes more than $10,700 in damage.
Earlier this year, cars from a Norfolk Southern train carrying toxic chemicals derailed near East Palestine, Ohio, creating a plume of smoke and sparking concerns about air, water and soil quality as nearby residents and sanitation officials reported illnesses.
Train accidents in Florida, West Virginia, Michigan, Oklahoma Alabama And Nebraska got all the attention this year, with railroads seeing heightened scrutiny after the Ohio disaster.
read more:How often do trains crash in America?
Most U.S. derailments occur in freight yards at low speeds with minimal damage, experts say. Passenger train derailments are very rare. Last year, railroad fatalities totaled 978, the most since 2007, according to the National Safety Council. Most people trespass on railroad tracks, not because of derailments or accidents. Seven passengers were killed compared to 11 railway employees last year.
Contributing: Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY; Associated Press