Toll goes 148 in Jhargram; more bodies recovered



Jhargram: The toll in the Mumbai- bound Gnaneswari Express derailment rose to over 148 today as more bodies were pulled out from the wreckage of the mangled coaches.

"All bodies from the spot have been recovered. Train services along the route resumed at 2.50 A.M. early this morning," South Eastern Railway's Kharagpur Divisional Railway Manager Anil Handa said.

District Magistrate N S Nigam and hospital sources have put the toll at 148.

All trains plying in the Sardiha and Khemasuli route in Jhargram in West Midnapore district, about 135 km from Kolkata, will now have a speed limit of 15 km per hour at night, Handa said.

Around 145 passengers were being treated in various hospitals in Midnapore, Kharagpur and Kolkata, he said.

Train services on the Kharagpur-Tatanagar section of the South Eastern Railway (SER) resumed this morning after restoration of both up and down tracks.

13 coaches of the Kurla-bound express from Howrah were derailed, of which five fell on opposite tracks and were smashed by a goods train in what is believed to be a case of sabotage engineered by Maoists.

A six-member CID team led by CID Additional Director General Raj Kanojia and accompanied by forensic experts visited the derailment site and inspected the 400-metre stretch of the damaged railway track.

The forensic experts collected samples from the spot, including pandrol clips, which were found to be dislodged at many places.

"It is a case of sabotage. Planned attacks on the railways have been going on in this area for quite some time. The railway line was cut and the pandrol clips were opened. But without a forensic report, we cannot say whether there was an explosion or not," Kanojia told reporters here.

Amidst allegations that a faction of the People's Committee against Police Atrocities (PCPA) was responsible for the derailment, the Maoist-backed organisation today disowned any hand and charged the CPI-M with "hatching the plot".

"We have no intention to target trains and we condemn and mourn such a colossal loss of civilian lives," its convenor, Asit Mahato, said over telephone.

A day after the state police claimed to have identified two persons of the PCPA, recently released on bail, having a hand in the derailment, Mahato said, "politically-motivated statements are being issued to separate us from the masses."

The PCPA leader named four CPI-M district and local leaders and alleged that they had opened camps close to Sardiha where the train derailed.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee and her bitter rivals, the CPM-led government got into a no-holds bar fight on who was to blame for the attack. Trinamool sees a conspiracy hatched by the state government while the CPI-M accuses her of being ineffective.

Home Minister P Chidambaram saw the derailment as an act of sabotage, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said bomb explosion had led to the tracks being damaged and derailment.

PTI