A tangle of sheet metal and shattered lives. India comes to terms with one of the most dramatic train accidents in its history, which left at least 288 people dead and more than 1,000 wounded. “Deeply saddened to learn of the immense loss of life” that took place on Friday, 2 June, the Holy Father sent a telegram, signed by Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to assure “all affected by this tragedy of his spiritual closeness, entrusting the souls of the deceased to the loving mercy of the Almighty”. Expressing his condolences to those in mourning, the Pope offered “prayers for the many injured and for the efforts of the emergency personnel”, invoking upon them “the divine gifts of courage and consolation”.
Investigations show that on Friday night, 2 June, the Coromandel Express, a passenger train travelling at high speed in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, derailed in Balasore, in the state of Odisha, after crashing into an idle cargo train. Then another high-speed passenger train, the Howrah Superfast Express, collided with the derailed carriages. Preliminary reports say a signal fault led to the crash, but investigations continue. More than 2,000 rescuers and first responders worked for hours to extract bodies and survivors from the wreckage.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his closeness to families in mourning and visited the crash site on Saturday, 3 June. He communicated that India’s railway minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw, had announced a contribution of one million rupees (about 11,000 euro) for families of victims and of 200,000 rupees (about 2,200 euro) for the most seriously wounded. The political opposition criticized the government, calling for Vaishnaw’s resignation.
India sees hundreds of railway accidents each year. With 68,000 kilometres of railroad tracks, India has the fourth longest railway network in the world, after the United States, Russia and China, and it transports about 23 million passengers daily.