At least 60 dead in India train crash
SAINTHIA, India (AFP) Ã¢â‚¬â€œ A speeding express rammed into the back of a stationary passenger train in eastern India on Monday, killing at least 60 people and trapping others in several badly mangled carriages.
The standing train was waiting to leave Sainthia station in Birbhum district, 260 kilometres (160 miles) north of the West Bengal state capital Kolkata, when the express slammed into its rear in the early hours of Monday.
The force of the impact lifted one wagon clear off the tracks and left it mounted on an overhead passenger bridge. An estimated 160 people were injured in the collision, a railway official said.
Bodies and injured travellers were pulled from the crumpled mass of steel by emergency services and by members of a huge crowd of onlookers who had gathered around the site of the accident.
“The death toll has risen to 60,” West Bengal Relief Minister Mortaza Hossain told AFP in Kolkata. “Some bodies are still trapped in the wrecked carriages of the train.”
The number of injured overwhelmed local hospitals in Sainthia and Suri, another local town.
“There were injured passengers writhing in pain on the floor of the emergency room unattended,” Samir Nandy, who had travelled to the scene to look for his brother-in-law, told AFP.
It was not immediately clear what caused the accident, which occurred at around 2:00am (2030 GMT Sunday) when most passengers were sleeping.
Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee refused to rule out the possibility of sabotage, but other theories centred on driver error or a signal failure.
“We still have doubts in our minds,” Banerjee, who is from West Bengal, told reporters before leaving for the accident site.
It was the state’s second train disaster in less than two months.
In May, nearly 150 people were killed when a Mumbai-bound high-speed passenger express from Kolkata veered off the tracks into the path of an oncoming freight train.
Police officials said a section of the track had been purposely removed and blamed Maoist rebels active in West Bengal.
At the moment of impact on Monday, passengers recounted experiencing a shuddering smash before panic broke out.
“I was fast asleep on the top berth when there was this huge crash like an explosion,” one passenger told the Times Now news channel. “I was flung from the berth, and then people started shouting.”
Another survivor, Rajni Dhar, said she heard a loud bang and then she blacked out.
“When I regained consciousness, I screamed for help and was pulled out of the train compartment,” she said.
Most of the dead were in the rear “unreserved” carriages, the cheapest area of the train which is usually tightly packed.
Banerjee announced compensation of 500,000 rupees (10,500 dollars) for the families of the dead and 100,000 rupees for the injured.
Heavy lifting equipment was rushed to the scene as well as soldiers and paramilitary forces, who helped maintain order and assist with the rescue operations.
The state-run railway system — still the main form of long-distance travel in India despite fierce competition from new private airlines — carries 18.5 million people daily.
There are hundreds of accidents on the railways every year, although the past five years have witnessed a marked decline in serious crashes.
In 2002, 100 people were killed and 150 hurt when a carriage plunged into a river in the northeastern state of Bihar, while in 1995 more than 300 died in a collision near Ferozabad, close to the Taj Mahal city of Agra.
The worst accident was in 1981 when a train plunged into a river in the eastern state of Bihar, killing an estimated 800 people.