Railway employees' mobile phones seized

The Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) probe into last week's triple train accident in Odisha's Balasore district entered its second day on Wednesday, as officials questioned at least six people and seized their mobile phones to ascertain the cause behind India's worst train accident in nearly three decades.

CBI sleuths and a team of forensic experts spent 45 minutes at Bahanaga Bazar railway station - where the accident took place - and interrogated railway officials and staff members, including former assistant station master S.B. Mohanty, and seized their mobile phones and other electronic equipment.

Mr Mohanty was in charge of the station until Friday, when he was transferred to Khurda.

"They (CBI and forensic teams) seized several electronic equipment, including the mobile phones used by the staff on the day of the accident," said a railway officer connected with the Bahanaga Bazar police station.

According to a senior CBI officer, the call records, including those made via WhatsApp, and social media usage of the three people will be examined as part of the investigation.

On Tuesday, CBI began its probe and registered a first information report (FIR) based on the case registered on June 3 by the Balasore Government Railway Police, Cuttack.

Its officers will look at all possible reasons for the accident, including human error or sabotage, reported the Hindustan Times.

CBI is also expected to question the loco pilot of the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express, Mr Gunanidhi Mohanty, who is undergoing treatment at a hospital in Bhubaneswar, this week.

Railway authorities had earlier questioned the assistant station master and drivers of the two trains to ascertain how the accident happened.

Preliminary investigation identified a change in the interlocking and point machine, an intricate system of interconnected safety checks designed to keep trains from crossing each other's paths, as the reason for the accident.

"However, CBI will look at all the angles, including human error, deliberate attempt to derail the Coromandel Express and any external factors," said an officer.

The accident occurred at Bahanaga Bazar station around 6.56pm (Indian time) on Friday, when the Coromandel Express rammed into a goods train bearing iron ore, the impact of the collision flinging several compartments into the adjacent track.

A few of these coaches hit the last two cars of the Howrah-bound Yesvantpur Express, which was passing by on the opposite line at the same time.

The crash killed as many as 288 people and injured nearly 1,175 in what was the worst accident suffered by the public transporter since 1995.

On Wednesday, the Coromandel Express resumed service on the route on a 25-hour journey south to Chennai.

Odisha's Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said on Tuesday the official death toll had risen to 288, up from an earlier official total of 275. At least 1,175 people were injured, many of them in critical condition and still being treated in hospital.

Mr Jena said the revised toll came after deaths were tallied from both hospitals and mortuaries, and noted that 83 bodies remain unidentified.

Medical centres were overwhelmed by the number of casualties and there are fears the death toll could rise further.

Serious challenges are being faced in identifying the bodies as most of them were disfigured beyond recognition.

In order to ensure proper identification of the bodies, DNA samples of as many as 30 persons were taken to Odisha's capital Bhubaneswar and would be sent to All India Institute of Medical Sciences. More bodies are expected to be take there after five cold storage shipping containers were sourced from Paradip port.

A detailed report is expected to be released in a week or 10 days.

Asian News International quoted an Odisha government official as saying: "We will be doing the DNA sampling of the unidentified bodies. The state government is working with the aim of avoiding any inconvenience to the affected families."

Reuters, AFP


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