From 1956 Ariyalur train mishap to 2023 Odisha crash...A look at the deadliest railway accidents in India!

The tragic triple-train crash that happened on Friday - June 2 in Odisha has distressed the entire nation as it has killed over 260 people and injured over a thousand people. As the rescue mission is underway and the injured people are hospitalized, it is feared that the death toll could increase. The two passenger trains and  a freight carrier had crashed each other to record a historical train accident in the country. 

The two passenger trains were - Coromandel Express that was en route to Chennai from Howrah and the another train was Bengaluru to Howrah Express. It has been reported that both the trains were running at a speed of around 120 km per hour, the fatal crash took place near Bahanaga Bazar rail station in Odisha. While the crash has been recorded as one of the deadliest train accidents in India in the last four decades, let's take a look at some of the deadliest railway accidents in India, 

1) Ariyalur train mishap in 1956

In a rainy day of November 23, 1956, an express train from Chennai to Tuticorin started from Chennai Egmore at around 9.30 pm. The train, that went by the number 803, had 13 coaches. Throughout its journey, there was heavy downpour across the state and at around 5.30 am the next day, the train was getting close to Trichy after departing from Ariyalur. The train was about to cross a bridge that ran over Cauvery river. 

The driver wasn't aware that the bridge was inundated by the river in the wake of flood. The pillars of the bridge were heavily damaged and when the train tried to cross the bridge, the bridge had collapsed and the first seven coaches of train were fully submerged into the river. The next day, the relief works have begun and it was reported that about 250 people have died. Two days later, only 150 bodies were recovered. The mishap has become the first major train accident in the independent India. It occurred when Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister and the mishap led the then Railways Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri to resign from his post. 

2) Pamban bridge accident 1964 

Like the Ariyalur mishap, the natural disaster became the cause of the fatal accident that happened at the iconic Pamban bridge in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu. On December 23, 1964, Rameswaram was struck by a deadly cyclone, that collapsed the Pamban bridge. During that event, the Pamban- Dhanushkodi passenger train was running and after the collapse, the train got drowned into the river. The accident had killed 200 people and the bridge was reconstructed with a new railroad. 

3) Tragic mishap in Bihar in 1981 

A passenger train was carrying over 800 people from Mansi to Saharsa on June 6, 1981 in Bihar. The train was derailed and plunged into Bagmati river. While it was reported that about 500 people were died, the then Railways Minister divulged in the Parliament that the accident killed 270 people while about 120 people were injured. 

4) Firozabad train accident in 1995 

In a double-train crash, the Kalindi Express and Purushottam Express collided each other near Firozabad, Uttar Pradesh on August 20, 1995. It was reported that the brakes of Kalindi Express were damaged after ramming into a cow on the railway track and when it was stopped due to this glitch, the Purushottam Express collided with the Kalindi Express and killed over 350 people. 

5) Gaisal tragedy in 1999 

The Gaisal tragedy had occurred on August 2, 1999, when two passenger trains travelling on the same track crashed each other in West Bengal. Both the trains collided at Gaisal station in West Bengal, as a result of signalling issue. The tragedy killed over 300 passengers.

6) Rafiganj crash in 2002 

In the Rafiganj crash, the Howrah-New Delhi Rajdhani Express derailed on a bridge over the Dhave River in Bihar on September 10, 2022. The mishap had happened at around 10.30 pm and it had killed 140 people. It was reported that the mishap had occurred due to sabotage by a local Maoist terrorist group. 

7) Jnaneshwari Express crash 2010 

This crash took place at Jhargam, West Bengal on May 28, 2010, when a few coaches of the Jnaneshwari Express travelling to Mumbai had derailed during the night hours after crashing with a freight carrier. While the mishap killed 140 people, it injured over 200 people.

8) Pukhrayan disaster 2016 

On November 20, 2016, 14 coaches of the Indore-Patna Express train derailed at the Kanpur Dehar district in Uttar Pradesh at 3.00 am. During the mishap, there were about 500 people on board and the accident had killed 150 people. Two years later, in 2018, dozens of people were mowed down by a train in Punjab during the celebrations of a Hindu festival. 

It is pertinent to note that according to the National Crime Records Bureau, there were more than 16,000 train related deaths in 2021 in India and the toll includes the fatalities who were killed while walking on the tracks or fell out of the moving trains.