Sleepers smashed by the blast at Gidhni. (Samir Mondal)
Gidhni (West Midnapore), March 23: Suspected Maoists blew up railway tracks between Jhargram and Gidhni stations in West Midnapore late last night.
Train services in the section, however, had been suspended even before the blast as news came in of explosions in neighbouring Jharkhand. Trains on the Kharagpur-Rourkela section started running again after the tracks had been repaired around 8am on Tuesday.
Railway officials said a special inspection train that had set out from Kharagpur after hearing about the blast in Gidhni found about a metre of the tracks missing from both the up and down lines. The sabotage site was about 32km from Jhargram station.
Only about 7km from the spot, the rebels had on December 30 hammered away at the tracks and twisted them out of alignment minutes before the New Delhi-Bhubaneswar Purushottam Express was to pass.
The driver (of the inspection train) spotted the damage and alerted us last night, said Dinesh Kumar, additional divisional railway manager in Kharagpur, who was leading the inspection team.
Tuesday was the second day of a 48-hour bandh called by Maoists in Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh demanding an end to the police crackdown on them. On Sunday midnight, the rebels had triggered a blast damaging the line between Godapiasal and Midnapore, leaving trains stranded for up to 10 hours.
The Maoists also struck in Jharkhands East Singhbhum district and Orissas Sundargarh district last night.
Among the many trains held up for three to 10 hours at various stations today were the Mumbai-Howrah Mail (via Nagpur), Pune-Howrah Azad Hind Express, Howrah-Ahm-edabad Express, Porbandar-Howrah Express and the Koraput-Howrah Express.
Kumar said: A major accident was averted (near Gidhni) as the trains had already been suspended.
The lines had been blown away. The broken pieces of tracks, fish plates, Pandrol clips and sleepers were scattered all over the place, said Pranab Kumar, senior security commissioner of the Railway Protection Force in Kharagpur.
The overhead electrical wires had also snapped under the impact of the blast.
Ratan Mahato, who runs a pan stall at Gidhni station, said he had heard two blasts around 11.30pm. I realised it was a Maoist job but did not know then that the explosions occurred on the tracks, he said.
Police teams reached the blast site, in the heart of a forest, around 2am. The blasts could be heard from 3-4 kilometres away. We have found the wire used to detonate the explosives, said West Midnapore police chief Manoj Verma.