At least 261 people were killed and over 900 injured in a three train collision that happened in Balasore around 7pm in one of India’s worst railway tragedies.
According to officials, the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express collided with a freight train while mistakenly entering the ring road, resulting in a head-on collision with the stationary train. Some derailed carriages of the Coromandel Express then veered onto the parallel track, hitting the rear carriages of the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express.
Here are some eyewitness accounts of the incident…
“I heard a deafening sound, the ground under my feet was shaking”
Vidhan Jena, a passenger on the Bengaluru-Howrah Express, said he heard a deafening sound and felt the ground beneath him shake.
“Our train moved backwards and stopped. When I looked outside, another express train was passing at very high speed. I saw four bogies of our train derail and people stuck underneath it. It was dark and I could hear screams,” he said. she said.
“I was shocked to see the bodies lying here and there. I couldn’t even hold my ground as it was a terrible sight. I felt numb,” said Jena, who was traveling to Balasore from Bhubaneswar.
“I’ve seen bodies without hands everywhere”
One man, who witnessed the crash, said he saw limbless bodies lying everywhere after the crash.
“We rushed to the scene and saw bodies with no hands and no legs lying everywhere. People were frantically looking for their relatives. The scene is too terrible to describe,” she said between sobs.
Another witness involved in the rescue operation said the screams and moans of the injured and relatives of the victims were disturbing. “It was horrific and heartbreaking,” he told her.
“It was like a bomb exploding”
Venkatesan, a 39-year-old BSF soldier who is on a delegation with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in Kolkata, said it sounded like a bomb had gone off.
“My son was on the line asking me when I would be home. I spoke to him and was sitting in compartment B7 when I heard a huge sound. Because of the noise, we couldn’t hear the screams coming from the other compartments,” he recalled.
Before anyone could react, the train came to an abrupt halt and some people fell off their bunks. “A child sitting next to me rolled under the bottom bunk. Luckily our compartment didn’t tip over, but other trolleys were completely crushed. If the accident had happened while people were sleeping, there would have been more victims,” she said.
Being well trained, Venkatesan helped people get out of the compartment in the pitch dark. “I was in shock. It looked like a bomb had exploded. There were bodies everywhere. It was terrifying. A young man who worked in a pharmacy near the crash site gave people sponges and first aid kits,” he says.
He said there were a few other Tamil Nadu residents with him, but they were unable to speak. “They had some injuries and wanted to somehow reach Chennai and get treatment there,” he added.
“I Thought I Was Dying”
Nagendran, who works in Kolkata and hails from Ramanathapuram, was one of the passengers aboard the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express.
“The moment the accident happened, I thought I was going to die. Yesterday I had left Calcutta for Chennai on the Coromandel Express. The accident happened near Balasore. The driver of the Coromandel train braked on seeing the freight train and that’s why dozens of passengers survived,” he said.
Sleeping and general carriages were hardest hit.
Mukesh Pandit, an injured passenger from Jharkhand, who was on his way to Chennai on the Coromondel Express, said he “never realized when the accident happened, he just regained consciousness to realize he was in a lot of pain”.
The deadliest railway accidents in the history of Indian Railways
‘People were thrown out of the train through broken windows, coach doors’
The impact of the accident was such that around 50 passengers were thrown out of the broken windows and doors of the buses.
By the time rescue teams reached the crash site, volunteers had pulled many of the injured people out of the debris.
“I was sleeping in my bunk when a big explosion happened, followed by people falling on top of me. Somehow I got out of the train compartment. I saw many people trapped under a pile of coaches and screaming,” said Swapan Kumar, a survivor of the Coromandel Express.
“The lights started flickering, there was smoke”
A young female passenger who arrived at Chennai airport told the media: ‘We heard the train derail. The lights started flashing. There was smoke. I’m not sure how many trains were involved. We were scared. The passengers inside of the compartment were safe. “Some suffered minor injuries. The elderly were removed from the compartment with the help of volunteers.”
A city college student, Rajalakshmi said she was in Kolkata for an internship.
He said that due to the impact of the sudden collision and derailment, the passengers of his bus fell and one man suffered a bleeding wound to his nose.
Several passengers who had traveled in the unbooked compartments appeared to be migrant workers bound for Tamil Nadu or Kerala, he said.
“I could see some of them crying as they lost loved ones,” she said.
“Never seen such chaos in my life”
Meanwhile, the district hospital in Balasore and Soro hospital where the wounded were rushed looked like war zones with people lying on stretchers in the corridor and rooms full of cracks.
Dr Mrutunjay Mishra, Additional District Medical Officer (ADMO), Balasore District Headquarters Hospital, said, ‘I have been in the profession for many decades but I have never seen such chaos in my life… Suddenly 251 injured people from accidents rushed to our hospital and we weren’t prepared at all. Our staff worked all night and provided first aid to everyone.”
He said a large number of people volunteered to donate blood after news of the accident broke.
“In fact, we were surprised when large numbers of young people headed to give blood here. We collected about 500 units of blood overnight. Thank you all. It’s a lifelong experience. Now things they’re quite normal,” she said.
(With contributions from agencies)
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