A day after a major train accident involving the Howrah-Kurla Jnaneswari Express and a goods train here, the death count rose to 141 on Saturday while more than 180 injured passengers are admitted to hospitals in Paschim Medinipur district and in Kolkata.
The death toll could rise, with more bodies feared still trapped under the debris of the mangled coaches.
Thirteen coaches of the express jumped the track between the Khemasuli and Sardiha stations in the early hours of Friday and an oncoming goods train rammed the derailed coaches, resulting in one of the worst rail disasters in the recent times.
Meanwhile, the first information report filed by the driver of the express, B.K. Das, made no mention of Maoists as being behind the incident.
The Government Railway Police's Additional Director-General (Railways), Dilip Mitra, told The Hindu that Mr. Das made no charge against any person or group. “The FIR says the driver heard the sound of an explosion underneath the locomotive while passing through the spot and realised that the train had derailed. He saw the other train coming and flashed the emergency signal, but the latter did not stop and rammed the derailed coaches,” Mr. Mitra said, adding that the case was handed over to the State's Criminal Investigation Department.
Earlier in the day, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said she saw a “conspiracy” behind the incident and suspected that an explosion on the track caused the derailment, even as the State government directly blamed the Maoists.
Director-General of Police Bhupinder Singh said the Maoists and some members of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee (PSBJC) were behind the incident and some of them were arrested. He said investigations by the CID's forensic team did not find any sign of an explosion on the track. The PSBJC, however, denied any hand in the incident.
Ananya Dutta reports from Kolkata
Ms. Banerjee said the Centre had agreed to an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the disaster.
“The incident is serious… It took place in the Jangalmahal area where the Home Ministry is already involved in joint operations against the Maoists,” she said. Exonerating personnel of the Railway Protection Force from the charge of lack of vigil, she said three passenger trains and a goods train had passed through the spot just before the Jnaneswari Express.