Indian news reports said two trains derailed in the eastern Indian state of Odisha on Friday, killing as many as 50 people and injuring hundreds of others in an accident that deeply shook the country.
The Times of India quoted Amitabh Sharma, a spokesman for the Ministry of Railways, as saying that 10 to 12 coaches of one train derailed and some of the debris then encroached on a nearby track, where it collided with another train.
Video footage of the accident site showed frantic onlookers, and Indian news reports said 50 ambulances arrived at the area, along with teams of doctors to tend to the injured. The death toll has not been confirmed, but reports said it was feared to be at least 50 people.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered his condolences via Twitter. “Disturbed by the train accident in Odisha,” he said books. In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. I hope the injured recover soon.”
Indian Railways transports more than 13 million people every day, according to Indian Railways, but the system has been traumatized by years of neglect. In 2014, there were more than 27,000 train-related deaths, according to the country’s National Crime Records Bureau. In 2012, a panel appointed to review the integrity of the rail network noted a “bleak picture of inadequate performance due to poor infrastructure and resources”.
It recommended a set of urgent measures, including raising track levels, repairing bridges, removing level crossings and replacing old buses with safer ones that provide better protection for passengers in the event of an accident.
Passenger safety, or lack thereof, has come under close scrutiny in India in recent years. In 2016, more than 140 passengers died in a passenger bus derailment near the city of Kanpur. In the weeks following this accident, two more people died in another passenger bus derailment on the same stretch of track.