60 die in WB train crash, Mamata smells conspiracy
Sainthia (West Bengal): At least 60 passengers were killed and 90 injured when the speeding Sealdah-bound Uttarbanga Express rammed into the rear of the Vananchal Express pulling out of the Sainthia station in Birbhum district early Monday.
Driver M C Dey and assistant driver N K Mandal of the Sealdah-bound Uttarbanga Express, which collided with the Ranchi-bound Vananchal Express, were among the dead in the accident for which railways are not ruling out sabotage as the cause.
The guard of the Vananchal Express A Mukherjee also died in the mishap which was so severe that the roof and the sides of one of the compartments mounted the road overbridge across the tracks in the station, 191 kms from Kolkata, in Eastern Railway.
A part of another compartment of the Vananchal Express split and fell on the road along the tracks after being thrown over the bridge.
"A total of 60 persons, including three railway employees, have lost their lives in the accident when three rear coaches including one luggage van and two unreserved general second class coaches of the Vananchal Express were affected," an Eastern Railway release said here.
The accident occurred at 2.00 am when the New Coochbehar-Sealdah Uttarbanga Express came on the same track and rammed into the Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananchal Express which was leaving platform number four at Sainthia station.
Eastern Railway General Manager V N Tripathi did not rule out sabotage, which Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee hinted this morning when she said "we have doubts about the cause of the accident, the second in West Bengal in two months".
The General Manager said the train was in speed and "what caused this we will have to find out. The driver is a very good driver and we are also puzzled". Asked whether sabotage could be behind the accident, he said, "Possibly. Nothing could be ruled out".
Though the railways were hesitant to come out with the reason for the accident, the second in two months in West Bengal after the Jyaneshwari Express disaster that claimed 148 lives, an apparent overshooting of the signal by the driver of the Uttarbanga Express could be the reason behind this.
Eastern Railway sources in Kolkata and Railway Board sources in Delhi said the Uttarbanga Express, which has a scheduled stop at Sainthia, was running at a high speed, overshot the signal and ploughed into the Vananchal Express.
The scheduled arrival and departure of Uttarbanga Express at Sainthia was 1.38 am and 1.39 am. It was not clear why the train, which was to halt at the station, was at a high speed.
The engine of the Uttarbanga Express, which was to stop at the station, telescoped into the rear of the Vananchal Express. The affected bogies have been detached and the trains left for their destinations.
The Railway Minister announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs five lakh each for the kin of the dead, Rs 1 lakh for grievously injured and Rs 25,000 for the other injured.
Employment for one of the members of the victims' families will be given in railways, she said. Railways have ordered a probe by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (eastern circle).
The hand of Maoists is suspected in the May 28 Jyaneshwari Express disaster following which a number of Maoists have been arrested. Union Home Ministry has dispatched five teams of National Disaster Relief Force comprising 140 personnel to assist in the rescue and relief operations. Three teams are already at the spot and the rest two will be reaching soon.
Heavy-duty gas cutters were brought from Panagarh to extricate bodies trapped in the mangled coaches of Vananchal Express. "The National Disaster Management forces, including the BSF, and police are extricating bodies from the severely damaged coaches at the Sainthia station," West Bengal Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh told PTI.
Singh said that there was a scarcity of blood in the Suri and Sainthia hospitals where the injured were taken to. "The police are arranging blood from the Burdwan Medical College and Hospital and are also looking for donors to meet the scarcity of blood," the DGP said.
Eastern Railways said rescue operations were proceeding on a war-footing and three relief trains, including medical vans, reached the site from Rampurhat, Burdwan and Asansol.
The first relief train with a medical van reached the site at 3.30 am and immediately started rescue operations, it said. Trains were being run through the up line, though the down line was still blocked.
Other than cancellation of Malda Town-Howrah intercity Express, Sealdah-Rampurhat Intercity Express and Howrah-Rampurhat Express, the Kanchenjungha Express, Ganadevta Express, Darjeeling Mail, Padatik Express, Jamalpur Express, Kanchenkanya Express, Gaya- Howrah Express, Varanasi-Sealdah Express, Saraighat Express have been diverted via the Naihati-Azimganj route.
Control Room Numbers:
Sealdah: (033-23503535, 033-23503537)
Ranchi: (0651-2461404, 0651-2460488, 0651-26002634, 0651-2600263)