Rescue work begins to clear wreckage of train crash

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Rescue work begins to clear wreckage of train crash

With rescue work completed, officials began clearing the mangled wreckage of two passenger trains that derailed in eastern India, killing at least 300 people and injuring hundreds in one of the country's deadliest rail accidents in decades.

Investigators are looking into possible causes of Friday night's crash in the Balasore district of eastern Odisha state, including whether human error or signal failure played a role.

Fifty bodies were recovered on Saturday evening and efforts continue overnight as heavy cranes were used to remove an engine that had settled on top of a rail car. No bodies have been found in the engine and the work has been completed on Sunday morning, said Sudhanshu Sarangi, the director-general of fire and emergency services in Odisha.

The accident happened at a time when the prime minister, Narendra Modi, is focusing on modernizing the British colonial railway network in India, which has become the world's most populous country with 1.42 billion people. Although the government has made efforts to enhance rail safety, several hundred accidents occur annually on India's railways, the world's largest train network under one management.

An early investigation revealed that the Coromandel Express was given a signal to enter the main track line but the signal was later taken off. The train entered another line, called the loop line, and crashed into a goods train parked there, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Asked about the cause of the accident and preliminary findings, India's railways minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said: Let the inquiry report come out. It won't be appropriate to comment. Chaotic scenes erupted on Friday as rescuers climbed atop the wrecked trains to break open doors and windows using cutting torches to try to save people trapped inside the rail cars.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the crash site on Saturday to examine the relief effort and talk to rescue officials. He also visited a hospital, where he asked doctors about the treatments being given to the injured and spoke to some of them.

He said he felt the pain of those who were injured in the accident. The government will do its utmost to help them and strict punish anyone found responsible, he said.

Ten to 12 coaches of a train derailed, and debris from some of the mangled coaches fell on a nearby track. The debris was hit by another passenger train coming from the opposite direction, causing up to three coaches of the second train to also derail, said Amitabh Sharma, a railway ministry spokeswoman.

In 1995, two trains collided near New Delhi, killing 358 people in one of the worst train accidents in India. In 2016, a train between Indore and Patna, India, slid off the tracks, killing 146 people.

Most train accidents in India are attributed to human error or outdated signalling equipment.

More than 12 million people ride 14,000 trains a day in India, travelling on 64,000 km 40,000 miles of track.