At least 28 people have died, more than 300 were injured and many are feared trapped in a multiple train collision in eastern India’s Odisha state, a medical officer said Friday.
Witnesses and officials told local media that the Coromandel Express passenger train and a goods train collided near Balasore, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the state capital Bhubaneswar.
A second passenger train was also involved in the incident, according to Odisha’s chief secretary Pradeep Jena, but the order of events was still unclear.
The Press Trust of India reported that around 50 people were “feared dead,” citing unnamed officials. Many passengers were believed to be trapped under rail cars at the scene.
“At least 28 people are confirmed dead and around 300 are injured,” Anil Kumar Mohanty, a medical officer in Balasore, told AFP. “We have rushed doctors and medical staff to the accident site,” he added.
A police official in Balasore told AFP that many of the injured were in a serious condition, but the details were “not too clear yet as teams are on the ground and everyone is busy in the rescue work”.
Local news channels said that the number of injured passengers had surpassed 300.
SK Panda, a spokesperson in Jena’s office in Odisha state, told AFP that the casualties as well as the situation on the ground was “not yet clear as it is a heavy accident”.
“We expect that the rescue work will continue till at least tomorrow morning. On our part, we have prepared all big government and private hospitals from the accident site to the state capital to cater to the injured,” Panda said.
The spokesperson added that they had already rushed “75 ambulances to the site and had also deployed many buses” to transport both the injured passengers and survivors from the site.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “distressed by the train accident”.
“In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon”, Modi said on Twitter, adding that he had spoken to railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to take “stock of the situation”.
Vaishnaw said that he was rushing to the accident site.
“Rescue teams mobilised from Bhubaneswar, Kolkata, National Disaster Response Force, state government teams and air force also mobilised. Will take all hands required for the rescue ops,” he said on Twitter.
Local media reports showed images of a train car toppled to one side of the track with what appeared to be survivors on top of it, and local residents trying to pull other victims to safety.
India is no stranger to railway accidents and has seen several such incidents in the past, but railway safety — thanks to massive new investments and upgrades in technology — has improved significantly in recent years.