Families of the victims of India’s worst rail disaster in two decades were on Sunday still struggling to reach the town where the disaster happened. The delays meant that many bodies remain unidentified and unclaimed, local officials and doctors said.
Survivors of the crash said their train had been packed with hundreds of migrant laborers, students and daily wage workers. At least 275 people were killed in the disaster on Friday. In and around the nearby town of Balasore, in the eastern state of Odisha, the bodies of about 200 victims were still to be claimed, the officials and medics said.
Many were badly injured in the crash, making it harder to identify them, and most of the victims’ families live in towns and villages hundreds of miles away and were still trying to reach the area, they added.
The state government on Sunday moved about 100 of the unidentified victims to the morgue at the main hospital in Bhubaneswar, the state capital. About a dozen bodies remained at the hall of a small local school a few hundred yards from the disaster site, a number that has reduced from more than 100 on Saturday, and fewer than a dozen were still at a business park in Balasore on Sunday. The location of the others was unclear.
In the business park, the local government put up photographs of the unidentified victims, and they have also posted the images online.
The authorities had kept the bodies at the business park on top of large ice blocks and covered them with plastic sheets, but the ice was melting fast in the around 100-degree heat. Relatives who made it to the business park first had to endure the trauma of looking at the faces of victims on a laptop. Then, if they saw any resemblance to a loved one, they were taken to have a closer look.
Rahul Kumar, a doctor at Bhubaneswar’s main hospital, said that the morgue there was already full.
While many of the bodies would require DNA testing for identification, he was one of several medics and officials who said that the reason for the delay in claiming the bodies was because relatives were struggling to reach the area.
“Most of these people are poor, and it may take them days to arrive either in Bhubaneswar or here in this town,” Dr. Kumar said.
Ashwini Vaishnaw, the Indian railway minister, said that a special train had started to ferry family members from the city of Kolkata, in neighboring West Bengal, to Odisha. The local government in Odisha also announced the operation of a free bus service on the disrupted train route.
Sameer Yasir is a reporter based in New Delhi. He joined The Times in 2020. @sameeryasir
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