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Indian train crash that killed 275 people blamed on signaling error

Indian officials said Sunday a signaling error is at fault for a train derailment that killed at least 275 people and injured hundreds of others. 

In what has proven to be one of the deadliest rail disasters in decades, two passenger trains derailed Friday night in the Balasore district in the state of Odisha

India train crash

Rescuers work at the site of passenger trains that derailed in Balasore district, in the eastern Indian state of Orissa, Friday, June 2, 2023.  (Press Trust of India via AP)

Jaya Verma Sinha, a senior railway official, said preliminary investigations reveal that a signal was given to the high-speed Coromandel Express to run on the main track line. The signal later changed, and the train instead entered an adjacent loop line where it rammed into a freight loaded with iron ore.

The collision flipped Coromandel Express’s coaches onto another track, causing the incoming Yesvantpur-Howrah Express from the opposite side also to derail, Verma said. The passenger trains were carrying nearly 2,300 people in total. 

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Verma said the root cause of the crash was related to an error in the electronic signaling system, a safety mechanism designed to prevent conflicting movements between trains. It also monitors the status of signals that tell drivers how close they are to the next train, how fast they can go and the presence of stationary trains on the track.

It’s unclear at this time whether the error was human or technical.

Authorities worked through the weekend to clear the mangled wreckage of Friday night’s disaster. By Sunday, a few shattered carriages were the only remnants of the tragedy. 

India train crash Odisha state

People try to escape from derailed train cars following a collision in Balasore, India, on June 2. (ANI/Reuters TV)

Meanwhile, many desperate relatives were struggling to identify the bodies of their loved ones. Few others were searching hospitals to check whether their relatives were alive.

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Fifteen bodies were recovered on Saturday evening and efforts continued overnight with heavy cranes being used to remove an engine that settled on top of a rail car. No bodies were found in the engine and the work was completed on Sunday morning, officials said. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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