India train crash death toll rises to 261

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NEW DELHI — A massive rescue and clean-up operation continued in eastern India Saturday morning as the death toll from a three-train crash rose to 261, a spokesperson with South Eastern Railway told The Washington Post.

The collision at Bahanaga Bazar station in Balasore, a district in the state of Odisha, involved two passenger trains and a goods train, the state’s Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said.

About 900 people were injured, officials told local media.

The Superfast Express running between Bangalore and Howrah derailed about 7 p.m. on Friday and was struck by the Coromandel Express, which runs between Howrah and Chennai, railway officials said in a tweet shared by the Ministry of Railways. Some cars crashed into a stationary freight train nearby, the Times of India reported.

Teams from the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and National Disaster Response Force joined the effort on the ground. Volunteers donated 500 units of blood overnight to help the injured, Jena said on Twitter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said all possible assistance would be given to those affected.

“Distressed by the train accident in Odisha,” he said on Twitter. “In this hour of grief, my thoughts are with the bereaved families. May the injured recover soon.”

Manas Bhunia, a minister from neighboring West Bengal state who visited the scene Friday night, said it was a “terrifying accident.” He saw local residents help carry dead bodies out of the crash site. “I’ve never seen an accident like this ever before in my life. The situation is very serious,” he said in an interview.

Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told Asian News International, an Indian news agency, that there would be a probe into the cause of the accident. He 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, while people who had suffered “grievous” and “minor” injuries would receive $2,400 and $600 respectively.

The state government declared that Saturday would be a day of mourning.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson, Vedant Patel, said on Twitter: “We are monitoring news of the horrific train crash in Odisha, India. Our thoughts are with the people of India at this time.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that the images and reports from the crash “break my heart,” adding “at this difficult time, Canadians are standing with the people of India.”

Vinall reported from Melbourne, Australia. Mikhail Kilmentov and Kyle Rempfer contributed reporting from Washington.

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