At least 71 passengers were killed and 200 injured when 13 coaches of Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Express derailed in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district early on Friday. Five of these coaches were also hit by a speeding goods train.
The incident occurred at 1:30 am when the train was running between Khemasoli and Sardiya stations, about 135 km from Kolkata.
But confusion prevailed over whether a bomb blast by Naxals or an act of sabotage by removal of fish plates led to the derailment. Police said about a one-foot section of track was missing.
While Home Minister P Chidambaram said that train derailment in West Bengal appears to be a case of sabotage, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee says a blast as part of a “calculated attack” caused the Gyaneshwari Express to first derail and then get hit by a goods train.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, however, contradicted the statements of both the ministers and said, “I don’t know what is the cause. When I last checked, there was no evidence of either an explosion or sabotage activity.”
Meanwhile, the West Bengal police have said that Maoist-backed organization People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) has claimed responsibility for the accident.
“Two posters belonging to the Maoist-backed People’s Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) have been found at the site,” West Bengal Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh told News Channels.
Bodies of the passengers were removed from the mangled remains of the ill-fated coaches and the injured taken out with the help of gas cutters, a South Eastern Railway spokesman said.
“Sixty five bodies have been recovered. The toll could go up,” West Bengal Home Secretary Samar Ghosh said.
He also said that the over 200 injured have been shifted to different hospitals and the condition of some of them is critical.
“At first, we thought Maoists have attacked to loot the train. When the accident happened no RPF personnel were present on the train,” said another passenger.
Helplines have been set up at Kharagpur – (03222) 255751 and 255735, Howrah — (033) 26382217, besides a toll free number 10722. Helplines have also been set up at Tatanagar (0657) 2290324, 2290074, 2290382, at Rourkela (0661) 2511155, Chakradharpur (06587) 238072 and Jharsuguda (06445) 270977. (With PTI Inputs)