Monday, July 19, 2010


SAINTHIA (BIRBHUM): As many as 49 people were killed and 89 serious injured when Uttarbanga Express rammed into stationary Vananchal Express at Sainthia station near Bolpur, Santiniketan, in the wee hours of Monday.

The impact of the crash sent a coach flying on to a 25-feet high road overbridge and left two other compartments badly mangled. Till 8.30am, 49 bodies had been pulled out of the Vananchal Express coaches. The death toll is likely to mount further as rescue operation is still underway.

Prima facie, the accident occurred due to human error. Preliminary investigation indicated that the driver of Uttarbanga Express had overshot a red signal before the station. While the Vananchal Express from Bhagalpur to Ranchi was running several hours late, what has baffled railwaymen is why the Cooch Behar-Sealdah Uttarbanga Express that had a scheduled halt at the station arrived at such high speed.

An Eastern Railway spokesman said the Vananchal Express was standing at platform 4 when the speeding Uttarbanga Express hit it from the rear around 2 am on Monday. Three rear coaches of the Vananchal Express bore the brunt of the collision and were badly mangled.

Rescue workers are using gas-cutters to cut open the coaches and bring out the dead and rescue the injured. The injured passengers are being sent to hospitals in Sainthia and Birbhum district headquarters Suri. An accident relief train and a medical relief train have also reached Sainthia. Rescue operation teams have reached Sainthia from Rampurhat, Asansol and Burdwan.

Train movement on the down line has been suspended in the Bolpur-Rampurhat section. The down Malda-Howrah Intercity Express has been cancelled and several trains are stranded on the down line.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee, railway board chairman Vivek Sahay, railway board member (electrical) Sudesh Kumar and director general of railway health service B K Ramteke, Eastern Railway general manager V N Tripathy and other senior officials have left for Sainthia. The minister has ordered an inquiry into the mishap. Eastern Railway safety commissioner Arti Yadav will lead the probe.

Only a couple of months ago, Maoists had engineered a train crash in West Midnapore district that killed 160 passengers. While the attempt had been to derail trains on both up and down tracks, a goods train moving at express speed rammed into the derailed Howrah-Mumbai Jnaneswari Express from the opposite side, leading to one of the worst train disasters in recent times.

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