At least 207 people were killed and more than 900 injured in a train collision in eastern India on Friday, officials told local media outlets. The toll is expected to climb, with many people still trapped inside train cars and under the wreckage.
Around 7:20 p.m. local time, a passenger train derailed in the state of Odisha, sending some cars careening onto the opposite track, where they were struck by another passenger train, according to local media reports. A nearby freight train also became ensnared in the pileup.
The train crash appears to rank among the worst railway accidents in India’s history. Only three past railway incidents in India – a derailment and two collisions – resulted in dramatically higher death tolls. Those three incidents all happened in the 1980s and ’90s.
The death toll is “increasing as there are a lot of serious injuries, head injuries,” Sudhanshu Sarangi, director general of Odisha Fire Services, told Agence France-Presse. “A very sad incident, and the prognosis is not good.”
“Distressed by the train accident in Odisha,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote on Twitter. “In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.”
More than 700 disaster responders, police and rescue personnel have been sent to the crash site, according to local media.
“I have given out an order to conduct a high-level probe to find out why this accident happened,” Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told Asian News International. Some regional and opposition politicians have called for Vaishnaw’s resignation in response to the crash.
Vaishnaw announced shortly after the crash that victims and their families would be compensated: About $12,000 would be given to the families of those killed and $2,400 and $600 to people who had suffered “grievous” and “minor” injuries, respectively.
The state government declared a day of mourning over the accident in a statement on Twitter.
About 600 injured passengers were taken to hospitals for treatment, Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said in a video posted to Twitter by ANI. He later shared in a tweet that the number of people injured had grown to 900. ANI, citing Jena, reported that the death toll has risen to 207.
India boasts one of the world’s largest railway networks, behind the United States, China and Russia, and the national railway is one of the world’s biggest employers.