Police officers guard the remains of a wrecked coach in Uglovka village, Russia. (Reuters)
Uglovka (Russia), Nov. 28 (Agencies): Russian officials opened a terrorism investigation today, saying that a homemade bomb planted on the tracks of the high-speed Moscow-to-St Petersburg route caused a derailment that killed at least 26 people and injured dozens more.
An Indian passenger, Rajesh R, was reported missing after his name was not found on the list of injured and hospitalised persons. Rajesh, whose passport number is 33 E 1906224, was travelling in the tenth coach of the train.
Russias emergency ministry said at least 26 people had been confirmed dead with another 18 missing, though one rescue official earlier put the death toll as high as 39. The ministry said 96 were injured.
The head of Russias Federal Security Service, AlexanderBorotnikov, was quoted by the Interfax and RIA Novosti news as saying that an improvised explosive device equivalent to 7kg of TNT had detonated when the train passed over it last night at about 1834GMT. Remains of the device were found at the site of the crash, Borotnikov said.
Indeed, this was a terrorist attack, Interfax cited Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for federal prosecutors, as saying. He told the Itar-Tass news agency that the bomb crater on the track was 1.5 metres deep.
The last three carriages of the 14-car Nevsky Express careered off the tracks as the train approached speeds of 200kmph, officials said. More than 600 passengers were on the train when it derailed near the Uglovka village on the border of the Novgorod and Tver provinces. The rural area is 402km northwest of Moscow and 250km southeast of St. Petersburg.
The derailment of the upscale train, which was popular with government officials, would be Russias deadliest terrorist strike outside the volatile north Caucasus region in years.
Witness accounts appeared to back up reports of a bomb blast. It was immensely scary. I think it was an act of terrorism because there was a bang, passenger Vitaly Rafikov told Channel One state television. Rafikov said he helped with the rescue, hauling victims from the wreckage and lighting fires for warmth. Passenger Igor Pechnikov was in the second of the three derailed cars.
A trembling began, and the carriage jolted violently to the left. I flew through half of the carriage, he said.
But there was no word from officials today on any suspects or their motives and no group claimed responsibility for the blast. President Dmitry Medvedev called for calm. We need there to be no chaos, because the situation is tense as it is, he said.