Rescue workers search for survivors at the site of Sunday’s train derailment in Pukhrayan, south of Kanpur city, India. Photograph: Jitendra Prakash/Reuters
theguardian.com – India train crash: death toll rises as rescue worker says survival hopes fading Six people are pulled alive from Indore-Patna express train after it derailed near Kanpur, with 138 bodies found. Six people are pulled alive from Indore-Patna express train after it derailed near Kanpur, with 138 bodies found – Vidhi Doshi in Mumbai
The death toll of Sunday’s train derailment in northern Indiarose to 138 as rescue workers said hopes were fading that they would find anyone else alive in the wreckage of the Indore-Patna express train.
The train swerved off the tracks near the village of Purwa, about 65km (40 miles) from the industrial town of Kanpur at 3am on Sunday.
Witnesses described being jolted awake as 14 carriages crumpled into one another, leaving hundreds of people trapped for hours on Sunday morning.
Uttar Pradesh police confirmed the latest death toll on Monday morning, and said 108 bodies had been identified.
Dozens more are grievously injured and are fighting for their lives in nearby hospitals.
AC Ravinder, a rescue worker with the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) who spent the night digging through the mangled remains of the carriages searching for survivors or bodies, said the chances of finding anyone else alive were very slim.
“We pulled six people alive from the crash site overnight. But now, I’d say there are no more survivors remaining in the carriages. There is no more hope of finding anyone alive.”
Cranes and gas cutters were used to try to separate the shattered compartments, as army, police and emergency NDRF units searched the site.
“The rescue operations continued through the night,” Ravinder said. “What has happened is that the coaches that collided into one another are completely locked into one another. One of the coaches, the S3 coach, is completely smashed. It is very difficult to move the coaches now. We spent a lot of time last night, trying to clear the tracks for an accident relief train which has now arrived.”
This morning, as crowds looked on, rescue workers were still hunting for bodies trapped under the crushed carriages. Some onlookers approached rescue workers with desperate hope. “People are still coming to us, saying they can’t find the father or their sister. We are doing the best we can to help them.”
A list of 169 identified injured passengers has been released by the Ministry of Railways and a number of emergency helplines have been set up for information about lost relatives.
Late on Sunday, railway minister Suresh Prabhu visited the site and met victims’ relatives. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “anguished beyond words” for the bereaved families.
Witnesses described the horror of the train accident, the worst in India since 2010. “There was a loud sound like an earthquake. I fell from my berth and a lot of luggage fell over me,” Ramchandra Tewari, who suffered a head injury, told the Associated Press. “I thought I was dead, and then I passed out.”
Police said the cause of the crash was still unknown and will be announced only after a full investigation was completed. But chaos at the crash site sparked a blame game, as leaders speculated about how the train derailed.
Murli Manohar Joshi, veteran politician from Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party and MP for Kanpur, said the derailing might be part of a “conspiracy to defame” the centre. “If 14 coaches are being derailed then this creates a doubt that whether the incident happened because the railway tracks were broken or someone did it to defame the Railways Ministry of our country, whatever can be the reason, we demand a probe into the matter,” Joshi told the DNA newspaper.
Accidents on Indian trains are common and claim more than 25,000 lives a year, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.
The Ministry of Railways said safety had declined from April to November, with derailments up by 67% compared with the same period last year.
A document sent to the Guardian by Anil Saxena, a railways spokesman, said derailments were often caused by “poor maintenance of infrastructure especially at stations and failure to take appropriate precautionary measures against flash floods, landslides, boulder[s] falling, etc”.
Saxena said the Indian government would launch a “zero-accident mission” for the railways. “We have formed an action plan and a roadmap which we will implement to achieve this,” he said.
The government’s plan, seen by the Guardian, includes upgrading track structure, and introducing long welded rails and track patrols to prevent railway infrastructure from falling into disrepair.
But some estimate that Modi’s $137bn (£111bn) commitment over his five-year term to upgrade India’s railways may not be enough to bring creaking trains and railway infrastructure up to standard.