India train crash: 'Signalling error' led to deaths of 275 people, says minister

As authorities pick up the pieces of India's worst train crash in decades, officials are yet to rule out the possibility of sabotage, ITV News' Asia Correspondent Debi Edward reports

A signalling error caused a train crash that killed 275 people in India, the rail minister has announced.

The incident, which is India's most deadly train crash in decades, led to around 900 people being rushed to hospital, on Friday night.

An Odisha government statement revised the death toll to 275 after it was previously reported over 300 were killed.

As authorities start to clear the tracks, on Sunday, investigations continue to discover what caused the derailment.

Initial enquiries suggest an error in the electronic signalling system led to a passenger train wrongly changing tracks.

The devastation of Friday's train crash in eastern India is laid bare in this 360 footage

The collision flipped Coromandel Express’s coaches onto another track, causing the incoming Yesvantpur-Howrah Express from the opposite side also to derail, Jaya Verma Sinha, a senior railway official said.

The passenger trains, carrying 2,296 people, were not speeding, but further investigation will reveal whether the error was human or technical.

“The system is 99.9% error free. But 0.1% chances are always there for an error,” Verma said. To a question whether the crash could be a case of sabotage, she said "nothing is ruled out.”

On Friday rescuers descended on the carriages, people climbed on the wrecked trains to break open doors and windows using cutting torches to try to save people who were trapped inside.

Volunteers and emergency services worked through the night, after the collision on Friday in Balasore district of eastern Odisha state and continued to pull bodies from the wreckage on Saturday.

Rescuers work at the site of passenger trains that derailed in Balasore district. Credit: AP

Passenger Vandana Kaleda said that inside the train during the derailment people were “falling on each other” as her coach shook violently and veered off the tracks.

“As I stepped out of the washroom, suddenly the train tilted. I lost my balance. ... Everything went topsy turvy.

"People started falling on each other and I was shocked and could not understand what happened. My mind stopped working.”

She added that she felt lucky to survive. Fifteen bodies were recovered on Saturday evening and efforts continued overnight.

Heavy cranes were used to remove an engine that had settled on top of a rail car.

No bodies were found in the engine and the work was completed on Sunday morning, said Sudhanshu Sarangi, director-general of fire and emergency services in Odisha.

The crash is India's worst train accident this century. Credit: AP

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the crash site on Saturday, as well as victims in hospital.

He said the government would do its utmost to help them and strictly punish anyone found responsible.

The accident occurred at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is focusing on the modernisation of the British colonial-era railroad network in India.

It has become the world’s most populous country - more than 12 million people ride 14,000 trains across India every day.

Despite government efforts to improve rail safety, several hundred accidents occur every year on India’s railways.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanks volunteers for their efforts

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...