(MENAFN- IANS) Bhubaneswar/New Delhi, June 3 (IANS) The death toll in the tragic train derailment in Odisha's Balasore district has increased to 261, with around 900 people injured, the South Eastern Railway said on Saturday.
Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Saturday morning visited the accident site and announced a detailed high-level inquiry will be conducted and an independent inquiry by the rail safety commissioner.
Modi had conducted a review meeting of the accident, following which he has departed for Odisha.
On Friday evening, 17 coaches of the Coromandel Express and SMVT-Howrah Super Fast Express derailed, leading to one of the worst railway accidents in the country in the last 15 years.
In a bulletin, the SE Railway said: "Train number 12841 Shalimar-Chennai, Coromandal Express and Train number 12864 Sir M Visvesvaraya-Howrah Superfast Express got derailed near Bahanaga Bazar Railway station at around 6.55 p.m. on June 2.
"Accident Relief trains with medical equipment, doctors and paramedics have rushed to the site from Kharagpur and Bhadrak. As per the information received till now, there are 261 casualties. Around 650 injured passengers have been taken to the Hospitals of Gopalpur, Khantapara, Balasore, Bhadrak and Soro."
Speaking to the media at the accident site, Vaishnaw said: "Our focus is on rescue and relief operations. Restoration will begin after clearance from district administration. A detailed high-level inquiry will be conducted and the rail safety commissioner will also carry out an independent inquiry."
The SE Railway also said that Vaishnaw is overseeing the rescue operations and restoration work.
Meanwhile, Chairman, Railway Board is at Cuttack hospital and DG/Health, Railway Board is at Balasore hospital, monitoring the treatment of injured passengers.
According to the Railways, the Coromandel Express was heading towards Chennai, while the Sir M Visvesvaraya-Howrah Superfast Express was coming towards Howrah with 1,000 passengers.
A senior Railway Ministry official said that the massive accident happened after coaches of Coromandal Express derailed and hit a standing good trains on one side while some fell on opposite rail track on which SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express was coming from Yashwantpur side and going towards Howrah.
The SMVP-Howrah Superfast Express hit the capsized coaches and massive accident took place.
The visuals from the accident site showed how the coaches of the two trains capsized on each other while NDRF and several other agencies used gas cutters to bring out the survivors from the mangled coaches.
More than 200 ambulances along with 30 buses have been pressed into service, Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said.
He also said that 7 teams of NDRF, 5 teams of ODRAF and 24 fire service units, local police and volunteers kept up the search for survivors and bodies trapped in the heap of mangled coaches throughout the night.
The Railways have also announced an inquiry by A.M. Chodhary, CRS/SE Circle.
A senior Railway Ministry official in Delhi said that the exact number of casualties will only be clear once the entire wreckage is sifted through.
He said that the rescue operation is still underway.
Railways has cancelled several trains on the Chennai-Howrah route, which is one the busiest routes of the national transporter.
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