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Rescue workers gather around the damaged wagons at the scene of the accident near Balasore in the state of Odisha


It was one of the worst train accidents in recent decades: According to the current status, at least 288 people have died in the accident in India. Hundreds were injured, according to the authorities of the state of Odisha. The death toll could still rise. According to authorities, three trains were involved in the accident, which occurred in a rural area in the district of Balasore, a good 200 kilometers southwest of Kolkata, on Friday at around 19 p.m. local time. How exactly all this happened was not entirely clear on Saturday either.

"This will haunt me for the rest of my life"

In the meantime, there are more and more reports from people on the ground. They tell of cruel experiences. "Corpses everywhere, many were missing body parts, people stuck in the wagons were screaming for help," one survivor told The Hindu newspaper. I saw people with mutilated body parts and disfigured faces. It will haunt me for the rest of my life."

Ompal Bhatia was on her way to work in Chennai with three friends. Suddenly, there was a loud, violent noise and they felt the train suddenly move backwards and tip over. "When the accident happened, we thought we were dead," Bhatia told Reuters. "When we realized we were still alive, we made our way to the emergency window to get off the train. The wagon had gone off the tracks and fallen on its side."

When he and his friends got out, chaos reigned everywhere. "We saw a lot of dead people. Everyone was either trying to save their lives or looking for loved ones," he said.

Over a thousand people in hospitals

The train is often used by day labourers and people who work as cheap labour in the industry around Chennai and Bangalore. It runs along the east coast of India and takes more than 24 hours for the more than 1600 kilometer long route.

So far, 1175 patients have been admitted to private hospitals, of which 793 have been discharged, according to the Odisha Ministry of Health. 382 patients continue to be treated in hospital, two of whom are in critical condition.

According to the BBC, three trains were involved in the accident: the Coromandel Express, which had started just a few hours earlier from Shalimar station in the state of West Bengal and was supposed to go to the southern city of Chennai. The Howrah Superfast Express, which had started at Yesvantpur station in Bengaluru and was supposed to reach Howrah, and a freight train that was parked at Bahanaga Bazar station.

17 wagons derailed

Railway spokesman Amitabh Sharma told the BBC that the Coromandel Express derailed first. An official from the Ministry of Railways stated that the Bahanaga Bazar station has four tracks. "Freight trains were parked on tracks 1 and 4. The passenger trains ran parallel and simultaneously on tracks two and three. Why and how the Coromandel Express derailed and collided with the freight trains remains to be investigated," he said. The wagons of the derailed train had driven onto the two rear wagons of the Howrah Superfast and had also derailed it.

A press release from the Odisha government said that a total of 17 wagons of the two passenger trains derailed and were severely damaged. Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told the ANI news agency that he had ordered an investigation into the cause of the disaster. According to a preliminary report, a signal error was responsible for the accident, reports the Reuters news agency.

There is a great deal of solidarity after the disaster. Many people donated blood for the injured in hospitals on the night of the accident. "I hope this will save some lives," a donor told ANI news agency. Odisha's head of administration, Pradeep Kumar Jena, said he had received many inquiries from those interested in blood donation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the scene of the accident on Saturday and injured people in a hospital. There, according to local media, he said: "Those responsible will be severely punished." Instructions had been given to take a close look at the examination everywhere.