More than 80 bodies are still missing five days after a devastating three-train collision in India that claimed 288 lives.
Two passenger trains and a stopped freight train were involved in the accident on Friday night in the state of Odisha.
Hospitals received more than 1,000 injured patients needing medical attention. Many families claim to be still searching for missing members.
India’s deadliest train catastrophe this century was the fatal collision.
According to Odisha’s chief secretary Pradeep Jen on Tuesday, the official death toll increased from the previous estimate of 275 to 288 while 83 remains were still unaccounted for.
During the collision, a passenger train derailed after entering the wrong loop track next to the main line and slamming into a parked freight train. The rear coaches of a second passenger train traveling in the opposite direction were then struck by its derailed carriages.
The two trains are believed to have carried more than 3,000 passengers, and reports indicate that both were fully loaded.
Hospitals have been crowded with anxious family members of travellers from Odisha and other states looking for information about their loved ones. But in certain instances, finding the body is proving to be very difficult.
Muhammad Nizamuddin was unable to retrieve his grandsons’ bodies from the Balasore District Hospital in Odisha.
With their father, Tafir Ansari, 16, and Tausif Ansari, 13, were riding the Coromandel Express when it was involved in an accident.
Although the father is still missing, the images of the teenagers and a number of other victims were projected onto a wall in the hospital with the Tafsir tags 20 and 169 so that their families might recognize them.
The boys’ faces were scarred from injuries, yet according to their grandfather, he recognized them.
He then made plans to travel to Bhubaneshwar, the state capital, where four hospitals are housing close to 100 unidentified dead, but an officer there stopped him.
The representative told him that although Tafsir’s body had been claimed by another family, it had not yet been sent to them.
How is that even possible? Are you saying that I won’t recognize my grandchildren? a visibly upset Mr. Nizamuddin asked the BBC.
He has now been ordered to get in touch with Bhubaneshwar civic officials who are in charge of verifying claims, confirming identifying documents, and taking action to ensure that the body is delivered to the correct family.
“Many of the bodies are beyond repair, as you can see if you look through the photo database. According to Bhubaneshwar Municipal Corporation Commissioner Vijay Amruta Kulange, they are currently also disintegrating.
He added that “unidentified bodies would be kept at the hospital morgue for the next 10 days” and that “the government would not hurry to cremate or bury” them in cases where more than one family had claimed a body.
The disaster site was visited over the weekend by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who promised that anyone found to be at fault will face “severe punishment.”
On Saturday, the rescue effort was finished, and the tracks had been cleaned of debris. On one of the lines, train traffic has already been resumed, and officials stated that the remaining lines would also resume and reopen by Wednesday.
Why do Indian trains deviate from their tracks?
How did three trains come together?
“My mother was missing, and I got a picture of the body,” said an eyewitness.
India boasts one of the world’s most extensive rail systems. More than 12,000 passenger trains are operated daily, carrying more than a billion people across the nation each year. However, much of the railway infrastructure has to be improved.
At this time of year, trains are typically crowded because more people are traveling during school breaks.
The deadliest train accident in the nation occurred in 1981 when a crowded passenger train in Bihar state was blown off the rails and into a river during a cyclone, killing nearly 800 people.