INTRODUCTION: Round the clock salvage operations continue to find bodies in the muddy Bagmati River in Bihar State -- the site of what could be the world's worst ever train disaster.
GV Site of crash with railway carriage on embankment (3 shots)
SV Men on bridge directing salvage operation
SV & LV Floating bodies being recovered (5 shots)
SV Funeral pyre on river bank
SV Bodies beneath blankets waiting to be burned
SV Bodies burning on pyre as another is tipped on
SV People watch as bodies burn (2 shots)
LV PAN FROM Pyre TO piles of ashes
GV & LV PAN Another crowded train passes scene of disaster
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Background: INTRODUCTION: Round the clock salvage operations continue to find bodies in the muddy Bagmati River in Bihar State -- the site of what could be the world's worst ever train disaster. So far 146 bodies have been recovered and 240 people registered as missing. Officials say the death toll would reach 800. But it may never be known for certain how many were on the 416 down Smastipur-Banmankhi passenger train when the rear seven coaches dived into the river in Northern India last Saturday (6 June).
SYNOPSIS: The salvage operation involved the armed forces and 1,500 people. Divers located the last of the seven coaches which plunged into the river. Victims were trapped inside.
Grieving relatives, waiting to identify the bodies, lined the banks of the river as the navy divers struggled to get the corpses out. Reports said naval frogmen were called in because local divers refused to touch the bodies because of Hindu caste superstition. Local boatmen also refused a reward for each body recovered.
About 70 bodies have already been cremated on the river banks with full religious rites. Many victims were swept downstream. Others were trapped inside the coaches and their corpses entombed in nine metres (about 30 feet) of water. Divers used explosives to free them.
Meanwhile, debate is raging as to what caused the disaster. In Delhi, railway officials said the coaches were blown into the river by a cyclonic storm. But those at the scene said the driver slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a cow which the Hindus consider sacred. The seven coaches jumped the tracks. The driver has survived and his account is expected to be known soon.
There was no doubt the train was overcrowded like this one. From all accounts there were at least four wedding parties, each with perhaps a hundred guests on the train. It is the so-called wedding season in the poor state of Bihar in Northern India.