Three days after the disastrous derailment of the Howrah-Kurla Gyaneshwari Express between Sardiha and Khemasuli stations in West Bengal's Paschim Medinipur district, there were conflicting reports about the final death toll, as the rescue operations came to an end on Sunday.
While Director-General of Police Bhupinder Singh put the count at 151, the South Eastern Railway authorities pegged it at 148 and the Paschim Medinipur district administration put it at 145.
The accident had occurred in the early hours of Friday when a fast-approaching goods train from the opposite direction, rammed the 13 derailed coaches of the Jnaneswari Express.
Train services were restored on the Kharagpur-Tatanagar section early in the day, though the SER authorities said services in the section would remain suspended between 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. till June 2 for security reasons.
Meanwhile, the Criminal Investigation Department has claimed to have “definite evidence” that Maoists were involved in derailing the express from intercepts of conversations of several rebel leaders' mobiles.
“We have identified a number of persons all of whom are Maoist squad members and supporters of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee. Raids are being conducted to nab them. We are also suspecting the role of a railway lineman but are still verifying whether he had connived with the Maoists or was forced into the job,” Mr. Singh told The Hindu.
Pointing out that the samples collected by the forensic team had no evidence of a massive explosion on the track, as claimed by Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, he said the “explosion” heard by the driver of the passenger train could be of “signal crackers” burst by the rebels.