Dozens dead in India train crash - UPDATE 2

A government official accused Maoist rebels of sabotaging a high-speed train in eastern India.

Dozens dead in India train crash - UPDATE 2

An express train packed with sleeping passengers derailed in India Friday and slammed into a goods train, killing at least 71 people, officials said.

A government official accused Maoist rebels of sabotaging a high-speed train in eastern India.

Local television showed the mangled wreckage of capsized carriages across the tracks and the death toll could rise as many passengers were still trapped. At least 200 people were injured.

"The death toll stands at 71 and it could rise," said Saumitra Majumdar, a railway spokesman.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said a bomb had hit the train, but police said they were also looking at other sabotage methods such as the removal of the tracks' "fish plates".

"From whatever I have been told the apprehension is the Maoists were involved," Banerjee said.

The crash occurred in an area known to be a stronghold of Maoist rebels. Maoists, who say they are fighting for the rights of the poor and landless, have attacked trains in the past and have stepped up attacks in recent months.

"The driver heard a loud noise which indicates there could be a blast. A detail investigation will reveal more, but definitely there was lot of tinkering done to the tracks," Vivek Sahay, a senior railway official, told reporters.

"It was definitely sabotage."

West Bengal official Ghosh said a portion of the tracks was found missing.

The Gyaneshwari Express, which was going to Mumbai from the eastern metropolis of Kolkata in West Bengal state, was derailed in the state's Jhargram area at around 1:30 a.m. (2000 GMT).

"The cries of women and children from inside the compartments have died down. They (railway staff) are still struggling to cut through metal and bring out those trapped inside," Amitava Rath, a local journalist at the scene of the crash, told Reuters.

A reporter of the Telegraph newspaper described a scene of chaos and panic at the site. "Rescuers are struggling to save the survivors and get the bodies out," Naresh Jana told Reuters.

"I can see body parts hanging out of the compartments and under the wheels. I can hear people, women, crying for help from inside the affected coaches."

The incident comes days after a passenger airliner crashed in southern India, killing 158 people, underscoring safety issues and concern that India's ageing infrastructure was failing to keep pace with an economic boom.

The Maoists had called a "black week" to condemn what they call police atrocities against innocent villagers and for an immediate halt to an armed campaign against them in India.

Agencies

Last Mod: 28 Mayıs 2010, 15:23
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