At least twenty passengers were killed and 150 injured when suspected Maoists blasted rail tracks in West Midnapore district early today derailing 13 coaches of a Mumbai-bound express train, five of which were hit by a speeding goods train.
Twenty of the bodies were extricated from the mangled coaches of the Howrah-Kurla Lokmanya Tilak Gyaneshwari Super Deluxe Express after the 13 coaches derailed with five toppling over an adjacent track, Additional Superintendent of Police, Jhargram, Mukesh Kumar said.
In New Delhi, Union Home Secretary G K Pillai told PTI that 65 passengers were killed and 200 injured and the toll might go up.
"We suspect Maoist hand behind the blast," Vivek Sahai, Member (Traffic), Railway Board, said.
The blast occurred at 1:30 am when the train was running between Khemasoli and Sardiya stations, about 135 km from here, South Eastern Railway officials said.
SER PRO Soumitra Majumdar said that the express train had in all 24 coaches. After the explosion, 13 including 10 sleeper coaches, derailed of which five were hit by the goods train coming on the opposite track.
An unreserved coach, the pantry car and luggage van also derailed, he said.
Railway officials used gas cutter to extricate trapped passengers and bodies from the mangled remains of the affected coaches. Passengers belongings lay strewn scattered on the tracks.
Angry passengers said the first signs of relief came only around 5 am, three-and-a-half hours after the incident.
Nine of the coaches which were undamaged took the injured and the other passengers to Kharagpur where they were admitted to hospital.
Sahai said that railway had were in touch with the Indian air force to airlift passengers who were seriously injured.
Anti-Maoist forces were at the spot and assisting the police and rescue personnel in extricating the bodies from four badly damaged sleeper coaches S-5, S-6, S-7 and S-8.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee reached the spot. She announced Rs 5 lakh for the next of kin of each of the dead and Rs 1 lakh for the injured.
Senior railway officials including Railway Board Chairman S S Khurana and DG RPF rushed to the spot.
A relief train left Kharagpur with a team of 12 doctors and 20 paramedics as also two doctors from the Kalaikunda airbase, the officials said.
Helplines have been set up at Kharagpur -- (0322) 255751 and 255735, Howrah - (033) 26382217, besides a toll free number 10722.
Helplines have also been set up at Tatanagar (0657) 2290324, 2290074, 2290382, at Rourkela (0661) 2511155, Chakradharpur (06587) 238072 and Jharsuguda (06445)
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