Maoists suspected as train crash kills 61 in eastern India

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The Independent Online

At least 61 people were killed and 125 injured when a speeding express train ploughed into a stationary passenger train in eastern India yesterday.

The force of the impact was such that the roof of one train was sent flying on to an overpass. Local residents raced through the darkness to help drag survivors from the mangled wreckage, before rescue teams arrived with machinery to cut through the metal. Television footage showed passengers pulling themselves out through the windows of the train, and labourers and cranes working to remove the wreckage from the tracks to allow services to resume.

Officials were trying to ascertain the cause of the crash, which happened two months after a derailment that killed 145 people and was blamed on Maoist rebels.

The Railways Minister, Mamata Banarjee, visited the scene of the crash at the Sainthia station, around 125 miles north of Kolkata in West Bengal. He said: "We have some doubts in our mind [about whether it was an accident]." Yet the crash, which happened at 2am when the Uttarbanga Express slammed into the Vananchal Express when it was parked at a station, may have had nothing to do with Maoists.

India's railways carry 20 million passengers a day and constitute the world's largest public transport system. They have long suffered from insufficient investment and poor maintenance, and accidents are common. Carriages are almost always packed, adding to often high fatality numbers. The most deadly accident took place in 1981 when around 800 people were killed in the eastern state of Bihar when a train fell into a river.

One survivor of yesterday's incident, Lakshman Bhaumik, who escaped with minor injuries, said: "I was sleeping when I felt a huge jolt and heard a loud noise and then the train stopped."