Balasore tragedy: survivors found amidst corpses; unclaimed dead bodies still an issue

It’s been 5 days since the accident but the tale of survivors and those dead continue to haunt the families.
Image courtesy: AFP

The horrific train tragedy of Odisha’s Balasore where three trains collided causing one of the worst train accidents India has seen. The accident involved Shalimar-Chennai Coromandel Express, Bengaluru-Howrah super-fast and a goods train whereby Coromandel Express crashed into a goods train which derailed its coaches on June 2 around 7 pm and which further toppled over a few coaches of the Bengaluru-Howrah Express which was passing by.

While the casualties are officially declared to be around 280, these being official figures, the speculations are that actual deaths are way more than these figures. Moreover, there are reports coming in from the ground which suggest that the rescue operations and the recovery of bodies was majorly mishandled by the authorities. This is evident from many reports that survivors found themselves under or amidst a pile of dead bodies. This means that people still alive were presumed dead, evidently without any proper medical check-up and were stashed along with the corpses.

Many have criticized this callous attitude and inhuman treatment of the survivors and corpses and attributed this to the fact that the passengers were all mainly people belonging to the marginalised section of the society.

One Biswajit Malik (24) grievously injured his right arm and was thrown in a heap of corpses . When he regained consciousness and realized he was amidst corpses, he waved out to the rescuers with his other functional arm. The corpses were being taken to the morgue, reported Mirror Now on Monday.

On Tuesday, came another such report where a boy rescued his 10-year-old brother from under a heap of 7 dead bodies. Further, one Robin Naiya found himself in a room full of corpses when he gained consciousness. The 35-year-old found himself in a classroom where the dead bodies were temporarily kept. When rescuers came to the room, Naiya grabbed the leg of one of them, pleading for water saying, “I am not dead, please give me water,” reported News18. Naiya was then shifted to Medinipur Medical College Hospital while he has lost both his legs, he has survived.

Unclaimed dead bodies

Reports were coming in on Sunday that morgues in hospitals in the state were suffering from a space crunch due the number of dead bodies that were coming to them. After a space crunch in Balasore, 110 bodies were sent to the AIIMS Bhubaneswar and remaining were sent to Capital Hospital, Amri Hospital, Sum Hospital and other private facilities,, reported Hindustan Times.

Some bodies were even accommodated in cold storage arrangements due to shortage of morgues and given the extremely hot temperatures.

Identification of the dead bodies has also proven to be a major challenge since the passengers hailed from different states, but the state was constantly putting efforts to make this easier. They uploaded the details of the passengers on three websites of the Special Relief Commissioner (SRC), Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Odisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA). Despite such efforts and 5 days since the accident, more than 80 dead bodies still remain unclaimed.

In this harrowing process of identifying disfigured bodies of their loved ones, people have faced many difficulties. In one such reported incident, Muhammad Nizamuddin identified his grandsons, aged 16 and 13 from the photographs put up on the hospital wall. When he travelled to Bhubaneswar to claim them. He was told that another family had already claimed the body of one of his grandsons. “Do you mean that I won’t recognise my grandchildren,” a distraught Mr Nizamuddin told the BBC.

“If you go through the photo database, you’ll see many of the bodies are damaged beyond recognition. They are also now decomposing,” Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation Commissioner Vijay Amruta Kulange told the BBC.  He further said that DNA testing will be done when more than one family claims the body and that unidentified bodies will be kept for 10 more days and there will be no rush on the government’s part to cremate or bury the bodies as they would like to wait for families to be able to claim them.

Also, to further preserve the bodies at AIIMS Bhubaneswar, they w=have started embalming the bodies and also since the mortuary is fighting for space and does not have refrigeration facilities.


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