May 30, 2024

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the scene of train crash that killed more than 280 in India

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was expected to inaugurate a new high-speed train, the Vande Bharat Express, on Saturday as part of his government’s massive investment into modernizing the country’s sprawling railway network and other infrastructure.

But, instead, he traveled to the site of one of the worst rail accidents in the country’s history to share his condolences.

More than 280 people were killed and over 1,000 injured in a three-way crash involving two passenger trains and a freight train in eastern Odisha state on Friday, officials said.

The deadly crash in the city of Balasore has reverberated across India, now the world’s most populous nation, renewing calls for authorities to confront safety issues in a railway system that transports more than 13 million passengers every day. While the government has recently poured millions into upgrading the system, years of neglect has left tracks to deteriorate.

The cause of Friday’s crash remains unclear, but senior state railway officials told CNN that it is suspected to have been caused by a traffic signaling failure.

The officials said the Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express entered a track where a train carrying goods was stopped and slammed into it, pushing several coaches into the opposite track. Another train – the Howrah Express traveling from Yesvantpur to Howrah – hit the carriages at high speed and derailed.

A train station superintendent in Odisha state explained on Saturday that a signaling failure can occur either due to a technical malfunction or human error, as traffic signals are often handled by personnel in every station.

A “high-level inquiry” has been ordered into the collision to understand what caused the crash, Ashwini Vaishnaw, the minister of railways, told reporters on Saturday.

“We can’t bring back those we have lost but the government is with them (families) in their grief. This incident is very serious for the government … Whoever is found guilty will be punished severely,” Modi said, adding that the government would “leave no stone unturned.”