With the death toll in the Odisha train crash nearing 300, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday warned of stern action against those found guilty while assuring the victim families that a through probe “covering all angles” will be carried out. 

In what is seen as one of India’s worst train accidents, two passenger locomotives and one stationery goods train was involved in a three-train side-on collision in Balasore in the eastern state of Odisha, leading to at least 288 fatalities, and 800 injuries. The accident took place on Friday evening. 

EXPLAINER: What is KAVACH? Could it have prevented the Odisha train tragedy?

While the Railways has completed rescue work on Saturday afternoon, work on restoring the route is still on, officials said. 

Podcast: Odisha train accident: Could the KAVACH system have prevented it?

Action against guilty 

Prime Minister Modi, who visited the accident site and met victims and families in Odisha, said, “he was pained at the terrible incident”. The government will leave no stone unturned for treatment of the injured. 

Modi gave instructions for speedy completion of the investigation(s) and for taking prompt and stringent action against those found guilty. 

“This is a serious incident and probes have been ordered covering all possible angles. I assure that stern action will be taken against those found guilty,” he said. The Prime Minister applauded the Odisha government and the people for helping the victims and arranging blood “in such short notice”. 

“We hope the track restoration will be complete soon too,” the Prime Minister said. 

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, who visited the site and oversaw rescue operations earlier in the day, said a probe has been ordered “to delve into the root cause”. The Commissioner of Railway Safety, South East Circle, Anant Madhukar Chowdhary will head the probe. 

How the Odisha Tragedy Unfolded

After a series of contradictory versions, government probe found that the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express derailed first near Balasore, as it rammed into a stationery goods train on a nearby loop line. Some of the derailed coaches then hit and knocked down coaches of the Howrah-Yeshwantpur Express that was passing by. 

A preliminary inspection report by a five-member team Railways in connection with the Odisha train accident said, signal was given and taken off for the Shalimar-Coromandel Express, it entered into the ‘up loop line’ and dashed into the goods train. In the meantime, the Howrah-Yeshwantpur Superfast Express, passed through the ‘down mainline’ and some of its rear coaches were derailed and capsized, the report said.

The through signal was given on both ‘up and down lines’ as per panel indication, the report said.

Sequence of Events 
Odisha train accident: Could the KAVACH system have prevented it?  Odisha train accident: Could the KAVACH system have prevented it?  

Bahanaga Bazar in Balasore, Odisha, where the accident happened, is a small roadside station, with three platforms and four tracks. Of the four tracks, two are the main operational ones — or called up and down lines in technical parlance; while the other two are called ‘up loop’ and ‘down loop’ lines. 

As per a senior Railway official, Coromandel Express was to pass through the main Up line, and Yeshwantpur Superfast pass through the main Down line. To allow the two super fast trains to pass through, two other goods trains were stopped and parked on the parallel loop lines. While the Up line system turned green, due to an alleged failure in the rail interlocking, the Coromondel Express hit the rear of a goods train. Derailed coaches of Coromandel spilled over to the Down line and hit the rear coaches of Yeashwantpur Express which subsequently derailed. 

None of the trains had theanti-collision system, KAVACH, the Railways said.

 (Inputs from TE Raja Simhan in Chennai)