CZ/SK verze

Train Accidents That Shook the History of Railways

Train Accidents That Shook the History of Railways
photo: Kieran Doherty / Accidents PARALIYA, Sri Lanka, 2004
06 / 12 / 2023

The train is a colossal vehicle capable of carrying thousands of passengers. Unfortunately, if a train accident happens, it can have even more terrifying consequences. The biggest train disaster occurred in Sri Lanka, caused by a massive tsunami wave.

On December 26, 2004, an estimated 1,700 to 2,500 people died in the accident. Unfortunately, the disaster could not be prevented at that time; the natural element attacked with all its force, and people were not warned. During the Christmas holidays, the trains were overcrowded, traveling from country to country and city to city. Even the train involved in this tragedy was full on that fateful day.

What actually happened?

As a result of an earthquake in the Indian Ocean, the tectonic plates shifted, causing a huge tsunami wave that also hit the coast of Sri Lanka. The train, nicknamed the Queen of the Sea, left Colombo, the largest city in the south, at 9 a.m. on Sunday for the southern city of Galle. There were up to 1,500 ticketed passengers in the overcrowded eight carriages, but it is estimated that there were many more people on board.

The railway line also ran along the coast, which at that time began to turn into a complete wasteland. When the tsunami struck Sri Lanka, dispatchers tried to warn the Queen of the Sea, but to no avail. No one picked up the phone. The first wave tore down the train, which managed to stop and served as a shelter for people on the street. People were so afraid that they hid under the train, while others climbed onto its roof.

Adam Jones / Detail of 2004 Tsunami Memorial / Wikimedia Commons /

After a while, people hoped that the worst was over and they would get home to their families. Unfortunately, 15 minutes later, a second wave came, which threw the wagons off the tracks and immediately submerged them in water. Most people died by drowning, as they could not escape the flooded wagons. The Queen of the Sea was flooded in the Telwatta district of the city.

During the second wave, humans had almost no chance of survival. The death toll varies, but reports indicate between 1,700 and 2,500 casualties, with only about 150 survivors. The railway line had to be repaired as this route was the only one connecting the north and south of Sri Lanka. On February 21, 2005, the railway was reopened.

The Biggest Train Accident in Czechoslovakia

The biggest accident in what was then Czechoslovakia occurred on Monday, November 14, 1960, in the early evening on the line between Pardubice and Hradec Králové, approximately 1,500 meters from the Stéblová station. Passenger train 608 from Liberec to Pardubice collided head-on with passenger train 653 from Pardubice to Hradec Králové. People were burned alive after hot coal spilled from locomotive 608, igniting leaking diesel from engine train 653. 118 people died in the accident. Dozens of people survived but with severe injuries that required limb amputations.