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Maoists attack Mumbai bound train, 68 people killed

Friday, May 28, 2010 05:05:18 PM, Agencies

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Jhargram (WB): Sixty-eight passengers of a Mumbai-bound express train were killed and 200 injured in a Maoist attack Jhargram early on Friday that derailed 13 coaches, five of which were hit by a goods train coming from the opposite direction.

Maoist-backed People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) claimed responsibility for the derailment of the Howrah-Kurla Lokmanya Tilak Gyaneshwari Super Deluxe Express that occurred in West Midnapore district, about 150 kms from Kolkata.

Confusion prevailed over whether a bomb blast or an act of sabotage by removal of fish plates led to the derailment, in yet another Naxal attack targeting railways.

"PCPA has left two posters near the rail tracks clearly owning responsibility for the derailment," IGP (Law and Order) S Karpurakayastha said in Kolkata. The posters read, "We had demanded withdrawal of joint security forces from Jangalmahal (West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura) and end of CPI(M) atrocities. But those demands were not met".

The attack came as the Maoists observe a 'Black Week'.

The death toll in the tragedy was put at 68 by a senior South Eastern Railway official here who also said over 200 passengers had sustained injuries. The official said the bodies of the victims have been extricated.

Some passengers were believed to be still trapped inside the mangled coaches, he said.

"The toll could go up," West Bengal Home Secretary Samar Ghosh said.

The incident occurred at 1:30 am when the train was running between Khemasoli and Sardiya stations, about 135 km from here, South Eastern Railway officials said.

Five of the 13 derailed coaches fell on an adjacent track and were hit by a goods train coming from the opposite direction, Additional Superintendent of Police, Jhargram, Mukesh Kumar said.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who visited the spot, said a 'bomb blast' triggered by Maoists on the rail track caused the derailment and that TNT explosives and gelatine sticks were found at the accident site.

In New Delhi, Home Minister P Chidambaram said the derailment appeared to be an act of sabotage but it was not yet clear whether explosives were used to blast the tracks.

West Bengal DGP Bhupinder Singh said, "It is a sabotage. Whether it is a blast we are not sure about it.

Penbroll clips connecting the fish plates were found missing along a 50-metre stretch in both the up and down lines. That resulted in the accident".

Karpurokayastha said that according to preliminary investigation, fish plates were found removed at the derailment site.

President Pratibha Patil, who is in China, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed grief over the loss of lives in the incident. The Prime Minister announced Rs two lakh to the next of the kin of the deceased and Rs 50,000 for the injured.

Relief officials used gas cutters to extricate trapped passengers and bodies from the mangled remains of the affected coaches. Passengers belongings lay strewn scattered on the tracks.

Angry passengers said the first signs of relief came only around 5 am, three-and-a-half hours after the incident.

Member (Traffic) Railway Board Vivek Sahai said the driver of the train heard a loud explosion after which the train derailed. Railways are investigating if the tracks were tampered with, he said.

Indian Air Force helicopters were pressed into service at the accident spot to airlift some of the injured to the hospitals.

The Railway Minister said a patrol engine had passed through the area half an hour earlier, but the timing of the blast proved disastrous with a portion of the line being blown away.

She announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of each of the dead and Rs 1 lakh for the injured.

The West Bengal Home Secretary said that the over 200 injured have been shifted to different hospitals and the condition of some of them is critical.

"Some of the critically injured people have been brought to Kolkata for surgical treatment," he said, adding that 30 of the bodies have been sent to various hospitals for post-mortem.

South Eastern Railway spokesman Soumitra Majumdar said the train had 24 coaches. After the explosion, 13 including 10 sleeper coaches, derailed of which five were hit by the goods train coming on the opposite track.

An unreserved coach, the pantry car and luggage van also derailed, he said.

Nine of the coaches which were not damaged in the blast took the injured and the other passengers to Kharagpur where they were admitted to hospital.

Anti-Maoist forces were at the spot and assisting the police and rescue personnel in extricating the bodies from four badly damaged sleeper coaches S-5, S-6, S-7 and S-8.

This is the second Maoist attack on civilians this month. Naxals had blown up a civilian bus in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh on May 17, killing at least 36 people, including 12 Special Police Officers.







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