A goods train rammed into derailed
coaches of a passenger express in eastern India, killing at least 75 people in
the country’s worst rail disaster in eight years, as officials suspected
sabotage by Maoist rebels.
The Gyaneshwari Express headed for
the financial capital of Mumbai was struck by a cargo train in West Bengal’s
Jhargram district, 96 miles southwest of Kolkata, at 1:30 a.m. Friday.
More than 146 injured passengers
have been taken to local hospitals and there’s “still hope for survivors,” said
Praveen Kumar, a local deputy inspector general of police.
“It is a case of sabotage,” Vivek
Sahai, a member of the Railway Board, told reporters in New Delhi. The impact
of the goods train caused most of the fatalities, he said. Police at the scene
of the accident blamed Maoist guerrillas for the derailment, Railway Minister
Mamata Banerjee told reporters.
The leftwing rebels operate in 11
of India’s 28 states and have killed more than 7,500 people since 1998. They
have stepped up attacks in recent weeks, blowing up a passenger bus in
mineral-rich Chhattisgarh state earlier this month, killing 31 police personnel
and civilians. Initially inspired by Maoist ideology, the guerrillas have
pressed a campaign of violence against the government, police and landowners in
a class war that seeks to install communist rule.
Chief Minister of West Bengal,
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, said in a televised address rebels had warned of a
week of protests against an ongoing government offensive and his administration
didn’t know they would “target innocent civilians.”
Home Minister Palaniappan
Chidambaram said in a statement that part of the track appeared to have been
removed. It isn’t clear if explosives were used, he said. The Maoist
rebel-backed People’s Committee against Police Atrocities claimed
responsibility for the attack, the Press Trust of India reported.