Sunday 19 November 2017

Sabotage fears as India mourns 61 victims of railway disaster

Rescue workers and onlookers gather near the wreckage at the site of the train accident 125 miles north of Calcutta
Rescue workers and onlookers gather near the wreckage at the site of the train accident 125 miles north of Calcutta

Edmund Bale in Calcutta

INDIAN police refused to rule out sabotage as the cause of a train crash that killed more than 61 people and injured hundreds of others yesterday.

The crash happened when an express train smashed into another as it left the platform at Sainthia, 125 miles north of Calcutta.

Three carriages of the second train were destroyed, two of which were reserved for passengers on the cheapest tickets and are usually packed to capacity.

The impact was so great the roof of one carriage was hurled on to an overpass above the tracks.


One survivor, Mithun Mahato, who was fast asleep on the overnight express, told how he was awoken by a violent lurch.

He lay with his leg broken for five hours, crushed under dead bodies as he waited for help.

"I had fallen asleep and woke up when I felt an enormous jolt and then suddenly I felt my coach turning over.

Three or four passengers fell on top of me and my right leg broke. I lay there crushed under dead bodies for a long time. At least three people sitting next to me in the coach died.

"I was trapped there in horrible pain until rescue workers pulled me out."

It is the second major train crash in the state of West Bengal in the past two months. On May 28 a passenger train derailed and was hit by a cargo train, killing 145 people. Authorities blamed sabotage by Maoist rebels.

Accidents are common on India's sprawling rail network, one of the world's largest, with most blamed on poor maintenance and human error. An investigation into the cause has now begun.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, who rushed to the site yesterday, said the crash could have been another case of sabotage. Local residents climbing through the debris searching for survivors were later joined by rescue workers using heavy equipment to cut through the metal.

A passenger on the second train, Mohammed Iris (52), managed to make it out of his coach an hour after it overturned.

When he finally crawled out, local residents pulled him to safety.

"When I crawled out it was only local people who helped me. They risked their lives to pull me out of the train."

Rescue teams arrived about three hours after the accident, a local resident said, and recovered 61 bodies.

At least 125 other people were injured.

Irish Independent

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