The Coromandal Express line, one of three trains involved in India's worst rail disaster in decades, resumed service on Wednesday, six days after the collision that killed 288 people, according to a new official toll. "The Coromandal Express is back on track," Aditya Kumar Chaudhary, spokesman for Indian Railways, told reporters.
The passenger train left Shalamar Station, near Kolkata, on Wednesday afternoon, five minutes behind the scheduled time at 15:20 p.m. local time, for a 25-hour journey south to Madras. As usual, long lines of passengers snaked past the unreserved seat compartments.
"No alternative but to travel by train"
"Four of my friends who were on the unfortunate train have disappeared since the accident," Samaresh Mondal, a 30-year-old migrant worker, told AFP before boarding the train. "I have to go to Madras to earn a living for myself and my family," he adds. "We have been very worried since the accident," said Pinki Bhuniya, 36, who was travelling with her husband and daughter, but "we have no alternative but to travel by train because plane tickets are too expensive for us," she said.
Rail traffic had resumed late Sunday at the site of Friday's train collision but the Coromandal Express line remained closed until Wednesday afternoon.
Days after triple train tragedy in Odisha's Balasore that involved Coromandel Express, the train resumed its services and left Shalimar station in West Bengal for its journey to Chennai. Watch!#Odisha #OdishaTrainTragedy #CoromandelExpress #Shalimar #Chennai pic.twitter.com/GzckwaEWBv
— News18 (@CNNnews18) June 7, 2023
Late Tuesday night, Odisha State Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena announced a revised official death toll of 275 to 288, after a tally at hospitals and morgues. He said 83 bodies had still not been identified. At least 1,175 people were injured, many are in critical condition and still hospitalized.
The Coromandal Express, linking Calcutta to Madras, had been given the green light to run on the main track before being diverted to a track where there was already a freight train loaded with iron ore, according to press reports. The passenger train collided at a speed of about 130 km/h with the freight convoy near Balasore, about 200 km from Bhubaneswar, the capital of the state of Odisha.
Three cars fell on an adjacent track, hitting the rear of another passenger train, the Howrah Superfast Express which was flying between Bangalore and Kolkata. In total, the two trains carried more than 2,000 passengers.
"No one responsible" for the accident will be spared
On Sunday, India's railway minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw, said the "cause of the accident and the people responsible for it" had been identified. He also clarified that "the change that occurred during the electronic switch is at the origin of the accident".
The Times of India, citing a preliminary investigation report, said on Sunday that a signalling "human error" may have caused the collision between the three trains. "No one responsible" for the accident will be spared, promised Saturday Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who visited the scene of the disaster and met injured people in hospital.
A six-member team from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) visited the collision site on Tuesday.
At this stage, this rail accident is the deadliest in India since 1995, when two express trains collided in Firozabad, near Agra, home to the Taj Mahal, killed more than 300 people. The deadliest in the country's history remains that of June 6, 1981 in the state of Bihar (east), when seven wagons of a train, crossing a bridge, fell into the Bagmati River, killing between 800 and 1,000 people.