Rescue crews halted this afternoon the search and rescue operation at the site where three trains collided with each other on Friday, resulting in to be killed at least 288 people and to injure another 900.

The press representative of the South Eastern Railway company, K.S. Anand said that based on the preliminary findings of the investigation this accident, one of the worst railway disasters in the history of India, may have been caused by a failure of the signaling system.

After the collision and derailment of the carriages, “people were crying, calling for help,” Arjun Das, one of the survivors, told an Indian television channel. Passengers were “thrown out of their bunks, there were wounded everywhere, inside the carriages and along the railway line”, he added, saying he wanted to “forget” what he saw.

Journalists who were at the scene saw the overturned wagons and them lifeguards working tirelessly to get the survivors out. Many corpses, covered with white sheets, lay by the tracks.

The accident occurred on Friday evening near Balasore, which is 200 kilometers from Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha state in eastern India.

Initially, an express train running from tBengaluru to Kolkata and fell to the next line. Minutes later another train, the Coromandel Express, connecting Kolkata to Chennai, rammed into the derailed train and some of its carriages derailed and collided with a commercial train, which was stopped nearby.

Hiranmai Rath, a student whose house is very close to the tracks, rushed to help. Within hours, he saw, he said, “more death and destruction than he could have imagined.” “Think about looking at, or retrieving, a human corpse, an arm, a severed leg,” he recounted.

In his last wagon second train 27-year-old Anubav Das was travelling. He told AFP he heard “shrill, piercing sounds from afar” and “saw mutilated bodies and a man, with a severed arm, being helped by his injured son.”

The rescue operation was completed this evening after the wreckage was searched for survivors. “All dead bodies and injured have been removed from the accident site,” said an official at the coordination center in Balasore.

Odisha state fire director general Sundansu Sarangi said the final toll would be higher and the death toll could reach as high as 380.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged that those responsible will be held accountable. Modi went to the site of the accident and then met injured people at a hospital.

To transport the victims, 200 ambulances, buses and the army were mobilized, as the Minister of Railways, Ashwini Vaishnau, said.

Pope Francis expressed his “deep sorrow” at the disaster and his condolences to the relatives of the victims. “My thoughts are with the families of the victims,” ​​French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.

In the past India experienced many railway tragedies, however, in recent years network security has improved significantly, thanks to investment and technological development. The country’s worst rail accident was on June 6, 1981, when seven carriages of a train crossing a bridge fell into the Bagmati River, killing 800-1,000 people.

Since 2000 there have been 13 accidents – at least three of which were due to terrorist attacks – with more than 50 deaths each.