As India mourns train crash that killed 275, relatives still await loved ones’ bodies

BHUBANESWAR, India (AP) — Families of victims of India’s deadliest train crash in decades packed a hospital in the city of Bhubaneswar on Monday to identify and recover the bodies of their loved ones, as officials Railroads recommended the nation’s top criminal investigation agency investigate the crash that killed 275 people.

Distraught relatives of passengers killed in Friday’s crash lined up outside the Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the eastern city. Meanwhile, survivors being treated inside the hospital said they were still trying to make sense of the horrific disaster.

Outside the hospital, two large screens projected pictures of the victims, their faces so bloodied and charred they were barely recognizable.

Each body had a number assigned to it, and relatives stood by the screen and watched the photos change, looking for details like clothing for clues.

Many of them said they spent days in desperate journeys from neighboring states, traveling in multiple trains, buses or rental cars to identify and claim bodies, a process that stretched into a third day. due to the horrific nature of the injuries.

So far, only 45 bodies have been identified and 33 have been handed over to relatives, Mayur Sooryavanshi, an administrator who was overseeing the identification process at the hospital in the state capital of Odisha, told about 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the city. train crash site at Balasore.

Upendra Ram began searching for his son, Retul Ram, on Sunday after traveling some 850 kilometers (520 miles) from neighboring Bihar state. The day trip in a hired car was exhausting for Ram, who said Retul, 17, was on his way to Chennai to find work.

After spending hours looking at photographs of the dead, Ram identified his son around noon on Monday.

“I just want to take the corpse and go home. He was a very good son,” Ram said, adding that Retul had dropped out of school and wanted to earn money for the family.

“My wife and daughter can’t stop crying at home. They’re asking me to bring the body back quickly,” he said, wiping tears from his eyes with a red scarf he had tied around his head.

Friday’s fatal accident was one of the worst train disasters in Indian history. Investigators say a signaling failure could have been the cause of the disaster, in which a passenger train hit a freight train, derailed on the tracks before being hit by another oncoming passenger train in the opposite direction on a parallel track.

The collision involved two passenger trains, the Coromandel Express traveling from Howrah in the state of West Bengal to Chennai in the state of Tamil Nadu, and the Yesvantpur-Howrah Superfast Express traveling from Bengaluru in Karnataka to Howrah, said officials.

Authorities recommended on Sunday that India’s Central Bureau of Investigation, which investigates major criminal cases in the country, open an investigation into the accident.

Meanwhile, on Sunday evening, some train traffic was restored to the tracks where the accident occurred, after two days of repair work during which hundreds of workers with excavators removed mangled debris from the trains.

The Balasore accident happened as Prime Minister Narendra Modi focused on upgrading India’s colonial-era rail network.

The South Asian nation has one of the largest and most complex railway systems in the world with more than 40,000 miles (64,000 kilometers) of track, 14,000 passenger trains and 8,000 stations.

Spread across the country, from the Himalayas in the north to the tropical ports in the south, it has been weakened by decades of mismanagement and neglect. Despite efforts to improve safety, several hundred accidents occur every year.

Most rail accidents are blamed on human error or outdated signaling equipment.

In August 1995, two trains collided near New Delhi, killing 358 people in one of India’s worst rail accidents on record.

In 2016, a passenger train slid off the tracks between the cities of Indore and Patna, killing 146 people.

More than 22 million people travel daily by train across India.

Saaliq reported from New Delhi

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