Nearly 2,500 people were on board two passenger trains earlier this week when one was inexplicably diverted onto another track, causing the trains to collide head-on at about 60 mph.
The state railway company, thought to be the largest railroad under single management in the world, now wants to know why. One reason: much of the signaling system is operated manually, and one of the three signalmen on duty at the scene is still missing while his colleagues have been detained for questioning. Other emeployees of the massive public agency, including five senior managers, have been dismissed as a result of the accident, reported the Associated Press.
The accident occurred early Monday some 350 miles north of Calcutta. The death toll was estimated at 285 before the rescue effort was officially closed. At least 312 other passengers were injured.
As horrific as the accident was, it was not India’s worst. In fact, head-on collisions, the most preventable and severe railway mishaps, have happened with regularity in recent years. In 1998, 208 were killed after two trains collided. In 1995, an express train collided with a local train that had stopped after hitting a cow, killing 358. Other two-train collisions occurred in September 1993, April 1996 and January 1998.