Bengal train mishap toll touches 62
A high speed Sealdah-bound express train tore into the rear of another killing 62 people and injuring 92 others at Sainithia station of Birbhum district, apparently overshooting a signal in the small hours of the day.
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The accident occurred at around 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 just pulling out of platform no. 4 after having suffered a delay of four to five hours.
Three rear coaches, including one luggage van and two unreserved general second class coaches of the Vananchal Express, were heavily damaged in the accident in Bolpur-Rampurhat section of the Howrah division, Eastern Railway officials said.
An Eastern Railway press release put the death toll at 60 while Birbhum District Magistrate Soumitra Mohan said 62 passengers had died. The condition of 36 injured was serious, he added.
Driver M C Dey, a seasoned 'A' category loco pilot with a good safety record, and assistant driver N K Mandal of the Uttarbanga Express were among the dead in the accident for which Railways were 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 one of the coaches mounted the road over-bridge across the tracks in the station, 191 km from Kolkata.
A part of another compartment of the Vananchal Express split and fell on the road along the tracks after being thrown over the bridge.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said, "We have doubts about the cause of the accident, the second in West Bengal in two months."
Railway Board Chairman Vivek Sahai, who visited the accident site, told mediapersons that it was unusual on the part of the drivers who neither applied emergency brake nor made any attempt to stop the train to avoid the accident.
"This is very unusual. There was something wrong with loco pilots," he said. "The brakes were not applied at all nor the emergency brakes though the train was running at a high speed. They (driver and co-driver) were not even trying to jump out and found occupying their seats," Sahai said.
Eastern Railway General Manager V N Tripathi also did not rule out sabotage, saying the train was running at a high speed.
"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 can be ruled out."
Banerjee announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh and job for one member for each family of the dead.
The seriously injured would receive Rs 1 lakh and those with minor injuries Rs 25,000. A team of five West Bengal ministers, headed by Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, visited the accident spot and demanded a full-fledged inquiry into the disaster.
The state government announced compensation of Rs 3 lakh to the next of kin of each of the deceased. Local people took up a blood collection drive to meet the scarcity of blood at the Suri and Sainthia hospitals which were not equipped to handle such a large number of patients.
Rescuers, drawn from the army, BSF, police and the national disaster management force, carried out work on a war-footing using heavy-duty gas cutters and deploying sniffer dogs to locate bodies or survivors in mangled coaches.
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, the railways said.
Latest reports said lines were cleared for resumption of normal train services in Bolpur-Rampurhat section.
Video: Dipak Chakroborty