In the aftermath of the devastating three-train accident in Balasore, Odisha, a semblance of normalcy has returned to the site. However, the tragedy continues to take a toll on the families of the victims, who now face the difficult reality of their loved ones’ bodies being stored in refrigerated trucks.
Following the train crash on Friday, which claimed the lives of 288 people and left over 900 injured, most of the bodies were transported to Bhubaneswar. Currently, 83 bodies remain unidentified, and due to limited space in mortuaries, railway authorities have been compelled to store some of the bodies in refrigerated trucks stationed at the All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Bhubaneswar. Refrigeration is necessary to prevent further decomposition until DNA tests can be conducted to identify the bodies.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena have issued appeals to the public, urging them to come forward and identify the bodies of their loved ones. DNA tests are also being conducted to ensure the correct identification of each body before handing them over to the respective families.
Railway authorities have instructed officials in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Bihar to assist with the identification of bodies. Preserving the bodies during the legal process poses a significant challenge for the railway officials. A senior doctor from AIIMS, New Delhi, expressed concerns over the prolonged storage of damaged bodies, stating that even embalming may not suffice. A. Shariff, Head of the Department of Anatomy at AIIMS, explained that correct embalming within 12 hours could preserve a body for several years.
A team from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrived at the accident site, involving the Shalimar-Chennai Central Coromandel Express, the Bengaluru-Howrah Superfast Express, and a goods train. The CBI has filed a case under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. Railway officials had earlier indicated the possibility of “sabotage” and tampering with the interlocking system as factors contributing to the accident.
As the investigations proceed and efforts continue to identify the victims, the families affected by this tragic incident face immense emotional challenges.