Mamata says blast led to accident in West Bengal; DGP points to sabotage on track
A goods train rammed 13 derailed coaches of the 2012 UP Howrah-Kurla Gyaneshwari Express between the Khemashuli and Sardiha stations in West Bengal in the small hours of Friday, killing 79 persons and injuring nearly 150 people.
Both Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the site, and the West Bengal government suspected the involvement of Maoists, though they differed on how the incident was staged.
While Ms. Banerjee said that left-wing extremists had triggered an explosion on the track, resulting in the derailment, Director-General of Police Bhupinder Singh said that the rebels had removed pandrol clips and fishplates from both up and down lines leading to the accident.
Mr. Singh told The Hindu that the death toll could rise as several bodies were still trapped in the wreckage — mainly in coaches S3, S4, S5, S6 and S7 that have been badly mangled and crushed.
According to eyewitness accounts, the accident occurred around 1.30 a.m. when most of the passengers were fast asleep.
“The train stopped with a jolt and within a few seconds our coach started tilting towards the down line. It stayed like that for some minutes before we heard a loud bang and everyone and everything tumbled on one another,” an injured Sheikh Moniruddin, an embroidery artist travelling in the most-affected S4, said.
Railway officials present at the site said the goods train, which was proceeding at high speed on the up line, rammed the derailed coaches of the Jnaneswari Express before its driver could raise an alarm.
Due to the impact of the collision, the goods train engine jumped the track and ploughed into the field – completely crushing S3, S4, S5 and S6 coaches in the process.
The assistant driver of the goods train died on the spot and the driver was critically injured. The driver of the passenger train has filed an FIR that he had heard the sound of an explosion before the derailment.
After assessing the situation, Ms. Banerjee said: “It was a calculated attack on the railways since it is the lifeline of the nation. I have requested the Union Home Minister to investigate the matter and book the culprits.”
She announced an ex gratia of Rs. 5 lakh and railway jobs to the relatives of the dead and Rs. 1 lakh to the injured.
Five Ministers of the State government, highly placed officials of the State police, the South Eastern Railway and the State's Criminal Investigation Department visited the spot.