On August 20th of 1995, two trains in India collided, killing 358 people, with another 400 sustaining serious injuries.
It was the worst train accident in India's history, and that is saying a lot. This accident surpasses even the deadly crash in 1981, where a Hindu engineer braked too hard to avoid hitting a cow. In that accident, no less than 250 people were killed.
There are quite a lot of train wrecks in India's history.
In 1985, around 100 people were killed when a train caught fire near Colcata.
In 1988, a train derailed in Kerala, claiming 105 lives.
In 1990 a train caught fire near Patna, leaving about 100 people dead.
And so on... There are one or two deadly train accidents every year in India. Between 1985 and 2010, there have been more than a dozen major train wrecks in India, claiming the lives of more than 1,300 people in total. That's about 52 people a year dying in train wrecks in India, in addition to those who are seriously injured. Needless to say, India is not known for its railway safety measures. The trains are often overcrowded beyond legal capacity.
The unfortunate train wreck of 1995 was also cow related. Cows in India are allowed to roam free, due to a custom of the Hindu religion. Occasionally, cows wander across railroad tracks.
The Kalindi Express, headed to New Dehli, hit a cow on the tracks at around 2 am. None of the train's 900 passengers were hurt, but the train's brakes were damaged, so the train could not continue its journey. Lai Sharman, the signalman, failed to stop another express train coming down the tracks.
The Pureshotham Express came barreling down the tracks at full speed, with no idea that the Kalindi Express was stopped in front of it. The Pureshotham, with 1,300 passengers onboard, most of them asleep, crashed full force into the Kalindi train. At least six cars on each train exploded on impact. Bodies and body parts were scattered everywhere. The following morning, cranes and heavy equipment were brought in to extract bodies from the wreckage.
Still, no major changes to the safety of India's railroad system were imposed following this tragedy. Since then, there have been at least a dozen train crashes in which hundreds of people were killed. In 2005, there were two railway accidents in India, claiming a total of 168 lives. In 2010, about 50 people died when an express train on its way to Kolkata crashed into the back of another train that was standing in the station. Less than two months earlier, about 150 people died in a derailment in West Bengal. In May of 2012, 24 people died in yet another train crash in India. Again in May of 2014, an express train smashed into a parked freight train, killing 14 people and injuring seven. It is no wonder railway tickets in India are so cheap. Travel at your own risk.
Lai Sharma, the local signalman in the 1995 tragedy, disappeared and was never seen again.