June 3, 2023 will forever be etched in the memories of the people of Odisha and the country, as the state witnessed one of the deadliest train accidents in recent Indian history. The collision involving three trains has left 288 people dead and over 1,000 injured, many of whom are fighting for their lives.
The accident took place around 06:55 PM near the Bahanaga Bazar station, located approximately 270 kilometers (170 miles) south of Kolkata. The trains involved in the collision were the Coromandel Express, which had commenced its journey from Shalimar railway station in West Bengal and was en route to Chennai, and the Howrah Superfast Express, which had originated from Yesvantpur station in Bengaluru and was destined for Howrah. Additionally, a stationery goods train was present at the Bahanaga Bazar station.
Eyewitnesses and railway officials have revealed that the Coromandel Express that had left Balasore for Bhadrakh was derailed off the main line and and collided with the stationary goods train at the Bahanga station in the up loop line after a sudden change in the electronic interlocking forces. The impact of the collision caused the derailed carriages of the Coromandel Express to strike the rear two carriages of the Howrah Superfast Express that was travelling on the down line in the opposite direction, resulting in further derailment. The series of events unfolded rapidly, leaving a trail of destruction.
Both passenger trains had approached the station under a green signal, indicating that it was safe to proceed, and were traveling at the usual speed of under 130 kilometers per hour (81 miles per hour). The severity of the accident caused 17 coaches from the two passenger trains to derail and sustain severe damage, exacerbating the already catastrophic situation.
The exact cause of this devastating crash is still unknown, leaving the nation in shock and mourning. However, Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw essentially revealed that someone had changed the configuration of the signalling (point) on the track, which led to the Coromandel Express to enter the loop line, “Whoever has done it, has done such a change to the point machine, the configuration of the track, which enables everything to function together, has been changed and that is why the accident has happened,” he said. “But I will say everything after the CRS report comes out.” Whether it was human error or sabotage is yet unclear.
300 NDRF personnel, 24 Fire and Emergency teams, 5 teams of Odisha Disaster & Rapid Action Force and police and district personnel were involved in the 36-hour rescue which was only complete by Sunday afternoon. The injured were rushed to hospitals in Balasore, Soro, Bhadrak, Jajpur and the SCB Medical College in Cuttack. As news of the accident spread, hundreds of youths lined up throughout the night at the Balasore district headquarters hospitals in Balasore and Bhadrak to donate blood.
So far, multiple celebrities and sportsmen including Indian YouTuber Carry Minati who raised funds by organizing a charity live-stream, have donated to Chief Minister's Relief Fund in Odisha which you can contribute to here. However many victims of the accident are from marginalized communities who will possibly have to wait 6-12 months to receive structured government aid.
Here's how you can help them now.
Founded on the Sikh principle of selfless service and universal love, the 30-member team of Sikh Aid based in Cuttack and Buwaneshwar are helping victims at the Maharajah Sri Ram Chandra Bhanj Deo Hospital through blood donation drives and supplies. You can email them for more information on their aid and plans and donate to them here.
Learn about other on-ground NGOs that are already preparing to distribute food and water to the families impacted by the tragedy and donate to them here.
Indian Railways has also released a list of helpline numbers in connection with the train accident that you can use below:
Odisha government helpline number: 06782-262286
Howrah helpline number: 033-26382217
Kharagpur helpline number: 897207395, 9332392339
Balasore helpline number: 8249591559, 7978418322
Shalimar helpline number: 9903370746
Jajpur Kenojhar road: 8455889906
Khurda Road: 6370108046
Kharagpur: 8972073925, 9332392339
Balasore: 8249591559, 7978418322
Bangarpet: 08153 255253
Kuppam : 8431403419
Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya Terminal: 09606005129
Krishnarajapurm Railway station: +91 88612 03980
Howrah Junction: 033 – 26382217
Kharagpur Railway Junction: 8972073925, 9332392339
Balasore Railway Station: 8249591559, 7978418322
Shalimar Railway station: 9903370746
M.G. Ramachandran Central Railway Station : 044- 25330952,044-25330953 & 044-25354771