A survivor from India’s triple train crash recounts the horror

When I exited the train car to see what happened, I discovered that three cars toppled right behind mine onto the adjacent track. Dismembered bodies covered in blood surrounded me. The entire place was painted red. 

  • 11 months ago
  • June 27, 2023
5 min read
The tragic incident of a triple train accident on June 2, 2023, in India left hundreds dead and injured. The tragic incident of a triple train accident on June 2, 2023, in India left hundreds dead and injured. | Photo courtesy of Anubhav Das
Anubhav Das is a Ph.D student from Cuttack in Odisha, a northern-eastern state of India. Anubhav boarded the train MGR Chennai Central Coromandel Express (12841) on June 2, 2023 at 3:00 p.m. from Shalimar station to go to his hometown. When the train derailed, Anubhav leapt into action, helping the injured.
On June 2, 2023, three trains collided in the Balasore district, in the state of Odisha in eastern India. At least 275 people were killed in the crash and at least 1,100 others were injured. It was India’s deadliest railway crash since the Firozabad rail disaster in 1995, and the deadliest worldwide since the 2004 Sri Lanka tsunami train wreck.

Trigger warning: This story contains graphic detail about the train derailment in India and the human carnage that ensued. Not suitable for all readers. Please proceed with caution.

BALASORE, India — June 2, 2023, remains the scariest day of my entire life. I went to Kolkata to collect data for my Ph.D. research. After I finished working, I prepared to head home to Cuttack, a city in Odisha. I boarded the MGR Chennai Central Coromandel Express (12841) from Shalimar station. We left around 3:00 p.m. My train car was the second-to-last one in the line.

At around 6:00 p.m., we heard a loud thud, and the lights immediately turned off. The train began to shake, and I feared it might topple over. Moments later, it stopped abruptly, and I saw pushing rushing out. All the electricity to the train stopped.

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I gathered myself and used bed sheets as bandages for people injured on the ground

When I exited the train car to see what happened, I discovered that three cars toppled right behind mine onto the adjacent track. Dismembered bodies covered in blood surrounded me. The entire place was painted red. 

Screams and cries resonated throughout the area. I gathered myself and looked around for help. A couple hundred people rushed to the scene to help us. Crying children yelled out for their parents.

I saw people with cuts all over their hands. Some had no legs. I saw heads cut into two pieces, and eyes coming out. It looked horrifying. I cannot imagine the physical pain they went through. I ran back inside the train to get bed sheets and pillow covers until medical help arrived.

We cut the bed sheets into temporary bandages. When we found a body part cut from a passenger, we tied it to them. In seconds the white sheets began turning red. Forty-five minutes later, the ambulances began to arrive on the other side of the tracks. As I moved toward them, I realized the accident was far bigger than I realized.

I am still haunted by the blood and cries, and I fear the trauma will persist for a long time 

I heard that our train was going 150 km (93 miles) per hour when it derailed. Twenty-one coaches derailed and of them, three collided with the train on the next track. Then, the Yeshwantpur, 12864 SMVT Bengaluru-Howrah SF Express began to approach on an adjacent track. It entered the passing loop instead of the main line near the Bahanaga Bazar railway station at full speed and collided with the second train. I was seeing the result of a triple crash.

My heart ached seeing so many children crying. I began helping people into ambulances and providing bandages to those who needed it. I watched as a 16-year-old boy dragged his father who lost both legs, as blood poured out of his body. Just then, a man began screaming from inside the train. He looked petrified, surrounded by dead bodies. As he cried out, we discovered he had multiple fractures on his hands and a deep pain in his back.

Then, I spotted a pregnant woman searching for husband through all the debris. She couldn’t find him anywhere. The authorities convinced her to go to the hospital. I still don’t know what happened to her husband. Horror filled me when another helper told me he broke the emergency window of the train and jumped out when her felt the shock wave. Just then, he saw a severed head rolling like a football from the window, hitting him in the chest.

On our drive back home, nobody could speak a word

I stayed for three hours, helping get people out of the trains. Help flowed in from the highway, 600 meters, or less than a mile, from the track. The entire highway and nearby government properties became makeshift treatment centers. Those who needed immediate care were sent to nearby hospitals. The government offered special transportation for those who survived to send them home.  

Within an hour of the accident, I saw the district collector, police, and ministers on scene. Medics arrived an hour later. Many people died during that gap in time. Meanwhile, locals helped people get out and offered shelter to many of the injured. I felt so overwhelmed. On one hand, I saw rivers of blood and corpses. On the other, I saw humanity at its best, helping each other selflessly. Everyone from the nearby village rushed in

I called my father after the accident, and he came to pick me up in a private car. The fear and the gratitude on his face showed me how lucky I was to survive. He still comes to check on me, but we do not speak about the accident. I still feel it slowly sinking in. More than a week has passed, but the crying voices still haunt me. I have nightmares every night.

In time, I hope to forget. The people of India still had not healed from the well collapse in the Hindu temple or the Morbi hanging bridge collapse in Gujarat, which combined, claimed the lives of nearly 200 people. Now we witnessed one of the deadliest train accidents in the world in decades. According to recent reports, I hear 275 people died and 1,100 people were injured. I have little hope anyone will be held accountable, or that the dead and injured will see any justice. I have never seen anything so terrifying in all of my life.

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