SAINTHIA, (Reuters) – A speeding passenger train crashed into another waiting at a station in eastern India early on Monday, killing at least 60 people in India’s second major accident in as many months, officials said.
At least 100 people were injured in the crash, which occurred in the state of West Bengal in the early hours of the morning. In May, a train sabotage blamed on Maoist rebels killed 145 people. The Maoists denied the charge.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said officials were investigating the cause of the accident. When asked if she suspected sabotage, she said: “We have some doubts in our mind.”
Other officials, however, said foul play in Monday’s incident was unlikely. Some TV channels quoted unnamed railway officials as saying “tampering” with signals could not be ruled out.
The accident occurred when the Uttar Banga Express rammed into the stationary Vananchal Express at Sainthia in West Bengal, said Saumitra Mohan, the area’s district magistrate.
“The death toll has gone up to 60,” Samir Goswami, a railway spokesman, said. “It looks like this is the final toll. There are also several seriously injured (people) undergoing treatment in hospitals.”
The impact of the crash saw several coaches thrown upwards in a mangled heap. Thousands of people milled around the accident site. Some helped in rescue operations.
Television images showed rescue workers cutting through the wreckage to pull out survivors. Some passengers were seen climbing out of emergency exit windows.
It was dark, maybe around 2:15 a.m. (4:45 a.m. ET), and people were crying for help. One coach was flung onto an over-bridge under the impact,” Sandip Kumar Mondal, among the earliest to reach the spot and rescue some people, told Reuters.
With a 63,327-kilometre (39,350 mile) network, the railways play a key role, transporting more than 18 million passengers and more than 2 million metric tons of freight daily.
But the system is plagued by overcrowding and outdated technology such as signaling systems. Every day, about 8 million passengers cram onto commuter trains in the financial hub of Mumbai, with roughly a dozen fatalities daily.