regular-article-logo Sunday, 24 September 2023

Balasore train accident: Mamata Banerjee questions official death toll

Bengal chief minister asks whether Vande Bharat Express trains' engines were up to the mark

PTI Calcutta Published 04.06.23, 11:36 PM
Mamata Banerjee.

Mamata Banerjee. File photo

Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday questioned the death figures given by the Ministry of Railways in the triple train crash in Odisha's Balasore, stating that 61 people from her state were dead and 182 were still missing.

Banerjee also asked questions on whether Vande Bharat engines were up to the mark.


"If from one state, 182 are missing and 61 are confirmed dead, then where would the figures stand?" she asked, addressing a press conference at the state secretariat, Nabanna.

The Odisha government on Sunday revised the triple train accident’s death toll to 275 from 288, and put the number of injuries at 1,175.

According to Odisha chief secretary P K Jena, some bodies were counted twice. "After detailed verification and a report by Balasore District Collector, the final toll has been fixed at 275," he said.

Jena said 88 bodies have been identified so far and 78 handed over to their families, while 187 were yet to be identified.

Three trains— Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express, Bengaluru-Howrah super fast and a goods train — were involved in Friday's accident, now being described as one of India’s worst train accidents.

"If bodies are to be extricated from steel coaches with the help of sharp weapons, it makes the identification process complex and time-consuming at times. DNA tests may be required in such instances to establish identity," Banerjee, the former Railway minister, said.

Stating that Duronto Express trains introduced during her tenure as the railway minister were "pushed out of priority", Banerjee asked whether the Vande Bharat Express trains' engines were up to the mark.

"The name Vande Bharat is good. I like it. But you have seen what happened that day when a tree branch fell on it... I don't have any idea where its engines were made," she said, about a mishap the Puri-Howrah Vande Bharat suffered on the second day after its inauguration.

Accusing the BJP, which is now in power at the Centre, of "playing a dirty game" over the toll in previous rail accidents, Banerjee said, "Those having moral responsibility for the Balasore tragedy are now trying to shift the blame to me and former railway minister Nitish Kumar to malign us." "We should not quarrel and argue, but instead of blaming me and former railway ministers Nitishji and Lalu Prasad ji, the BJP should first explain why the anti-collision device is not in place yet after all these years. Yesterday, the railway minister was there during my visit to Balasore, I could have raised the issue, but I did not for courtesy," Banerjee said.

The Coromandel Express crashed into a stationary goods train, derailing most of its coaches at 7 pm on June 2.

A few coaches of Coromandel toppled over the last few coaches of the Bengaluru-Howrah Express which was passing by at the same time.

Investigators are looking into possible human error, signal failure and other possible causes behind the three-train crash.

Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.

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