West Bengal: Sixty-eight passengers of a Mumbai-bound express train were killed and 200 injured in a Maoist attack here early today 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 told PTI 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.(PTI)