At least 67 persons were killed and 121 injured when the Sealdah-bound New Cooch Behar-Sealdah Uttarbanga Express rammed the rear of the stationary Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananchal Express at the Sainthia station in the early hours of Monday.
The engine of the Uttarbanga Express and the parcel van and two general compartments of the Vananchal Express were completely destroyed. So great was the impact of the collision that one of the general compartments was flung over the footbridge of the station.
The drivers of the Uttarbanga Express, M.C. Dey and M.K. Mondal, and the guard of the Vananchal Express, A. Mukherjee, were among those killed.
While most of those injured persons were admitted to the Suri hospital, some of them were shifted to hospitals in Bardhaman district and Kolkata.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee visited the accident site and announced an ex gratia of Rs. 5 lakh to the relatives of those killed and a job to one from each bereaved family.
Ms. Banerjee termed the incident “unfortunate” and ordered an inquiry.
The disaster occurred within two months of the May 28 derailment of the Jnaneswari Express in Paschim Medinipur district, that killed 150 people.
According to Eastern Railway’s General Manager V.N. Tripathy, the Vananchal Express was at Platform 4 around 1.50 a.m. when the Uttarbanga Express rammed it at high speed.
“What happened is something very unusual. The Uttarbanga Express had a scheduled stop here but was still running at a very high speed. We are not ruling out any possibility, including sabotage. Commissioner of Railway Safety R.P. Yadav has already initiated an inquiry,” Mr. Tripathy said.
Most of the passengers of the general compartments of the Vananchal Express were asleep when the incident took place.
Officials of the State’s Criminal Investigation Department inspected the spot in the evening.
Rescue operations continued throughout the day, with the Army’s disaster management team joining hands with railway and police officials to extricate the bodies.