Around 51 hours after a horrific train accident that killed 275 people in Odisha's Balasore, the first train on the section where the accident happened started its journey at around 10.40 pm on Sunday, officials said.
The goods train was seen off by Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw as scores of mediapersons and railway officials looked on. The train carrying coal is headed towards Rourkela Steel plant from Vizag port and is running on the same track where the ill-fated Bangalore-Howrah train met with the tragedy on Friday.
The Howrah-bound train crashed with the capsized bogies of the Coromandel Express which had collided with a stationary freight train seconds earlier. "Down-line restoration complete. First train movement in section," tweeted Ashwini Vaishnaw. Barely two hours after the restoration of the downline, the upline was also restored.
An empty goods train was the first train to run on the up line of the accident affected section. This is the same track on which the Coromandel Express was running before it entered into the loop line to crash into a stationary goods train. "Three trains have left from the section (two down and one up) and we have planned to run around seven tonight. We have to take this entire section towards normalisation.
"Our objective is to ensure that all the missing persons' family members find them as soon as possible. Our responsibility is not over yet," said a visibly emotional Vaishnaw as he announced the restoration of the accident affected section. Around 200 bodies so far remain unidentified.
The railways on Sunday sought a CBI inquiry into the Balasore train crash, hours after minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the "root cause" of the accident and the people behind the "criminal" act have been identified.
Claims regarding death toll
After claims regarding 'manipulation' of death toll in the train tragedy, Odisha Chief Secretary PK Jena on Sunday said his government has no intention to hide the deaths in the Balasore train crash and the entire rescue operation was being conducted in full public view. "Media persons are very much present at the accident site since the beginning. Everything is being done in the presence of cameras," he said.
"The railways had stated the death toll as 288. We also said that, and the figure was based on the information from railway. But, our Balasore district collector has verified the death toll, and the figure was 275 till 10 am of Sunday," he said. Asked about the change in the toll, Jena said it was due to double counting of some bodies.
(With inputs from PTI)