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After accident, the blame game

Hyderabad, Dec. 22: The railways and police have blamed each other for yesterday’s accident of the Hyderabad-Bangalore Express, 280 km from here.

Twenty people were killed and 87 injured in the accident.

The railways have blamed extremists and the police have blamed the cracks in the track between Paidirai and Pendakallu of South Central Railways’ Guntakal sector.

“It is a planned act of sabotage by a Naxalite group,” South Central Railways’ general manager S.M. Singla said. The track was cut with hacksaws and the damaged portion was covered with a cloth, he said.

Iron filings at the accident site have lent credence to the theory. Four or five hacksaw blades, too, were recovered near the track, Singla said.

“A rail has been cut. Who has cut it is for the police to find out,” he said.

Police sources, however, said no extremist group had claimed responsibility so far. Instead, they blamed a fault in the newly laid track.

According to official sources, police intelligence, too, says the accident could be the act of a Naxalite group.

A top railway official, who refused to be named, dismissed as “politically motivated” the charge of a “substandard track” triggering the derailment.

According to Singla’s statement, the texture of the iron filings found at the spot was smooth. This is unlike in a “normal break” when the texture would have been granular.

People’s War Group units have been active in the Nallamala forests of Rayalaseema after the police chased them out of neighbouring Guntur and Nalgonda districts. Two days ago, four Naxalites were killed in encounters in Guntur.

The claim of sabotage has roots in the early official statements of minister of state for railways Bandaru Dattatreya that he suspected extremists’ hand in the accident.

The sabotage theory was overruled with the Centre blaming failure of safety measures and hinting at cracks in the track.

The damaged track was replaced today after repairs were halted last night over the contradictory claims of the railways and the police.

This morning, a forensic team from Secunderabad collected fresh samples of metal powder from the spot as also pieces of the damaged rail.

A team official said a chemical analysis of and simulation test on the powder could reveal the cause of the accident.

Traffic on the track, inaugurated last year, would be restored tomorrow, railway sources said. The rail traffic to Hyderabad, however, remained unaffected as trains ran on another route.

A railway board official said the 130-tonne engine could withstand the impact but the 22-tonne coaches could not.

The commissioner of railway safety will hold a statutory inquiry at Guntakal tomorrow.

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