As India Grieves Train Crash That Killed 275, Relatives Wait For Bodies Of Loved Ones

(AP) — Families of the victims of India’s deadliest train crash in decades filled a hospital in Bhubaneswar city on Monday to identify and collect bodies of relatives, as railway officials recommended a federal criminal probe of the crash that killed 275 people.

Distraught relatives of passengers killed in the crash Friday lined up outside the eastern city’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Meanwhile, survivors being treated in hospitals said they were still trying to make sense of the horrific disaster.

Outside the hospital, two large screens cycled through photos of the bodies, their faces so bloodied and charred that they were hardly recognisable.

Each body had a number assigned to it, and relatives stood near the screen and watched as the photos changed, looking out for details like clothing for clues.

Many of the people waiting said they had spent days on desperate journeys from neighbouring states, travelling in multiple trains, buses or rented cars to identify and claim bodies, a process that stretched into a third day due.

So far only 45 bodies have been identified, and 33 have been handed over to relatives, said Mayur Sooryavanshi, an administrator who was overseeing the identification process at the hospital in the capital of Odisha state, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) south of the site of the train crash in Balasore.

Upendra Ram began searching for his son, Retul Ram, Sunday, after travelling some 850 kilometres (520 miles) from neighbouring Bihar state. The day-long journey in a rented car, which cost him 35,000 rupees ($423), was exhausting for Ram. Retul, 17, had been on his way to Chennai to find work, Ram said.

After spending hours looking at photographs of the dead, Ram identified his son around noon Monday.

“I just want to take the dead body and go back home. He was a very good son,” said Ram, adding that Retul had dropped out of school and wanted to earn money for the family.

“My wife and daughter can’t stop crying at home. They are asking me to bring the body back quickly,” he said, wiping tears from his eyes with a red scarf he had tied around his head.

Friday’s crash was one of the worst rail disasters in India’s history. Investigators said that a signaling failure might have been the cause of the disaster, in which a passenger train hit a freight train, derailing on the tracks before being hit by another passenger train coming in the opposite direction on a parallel track.

The collision involved two passenger trains, the Coromandel Express traveling from Howrah in West Bengal state to Chennai in Tamil Nadu state, and the Yesvantpur-Howrah Superfast Express traveling from Bengaluru in Karnataka to Howrah, officials said.

Many people had to make arduous journeys to reach the hospital.