Sainthia train accident- sixth major one in past year

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 19.07.10
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The roof of Uttarbanga Express's passenger car sits on top of Vananchal Express as rescue workers search for survivors at the site of an accident at Sainthia station, about 125 miles north of Calcutta.

Sainthia (WB), July 19 (PTI) : The train accident in West Bengal's Birbhum district on Monday in which at least 60 people were killed is the sixth major one in the past one year and the second in less than two months in the state.

60 people were killed and over 90 passengers injured when a train in high speed tore through the rear of another at the Sainthia station in Bhirbhum district of West Bengal, after it apparently overshot the signal in the small hours of the day.       

 Driver M C Dey and assistant driver N K Mandal of the Sealdah-bound Uttarbanga Express, which collided with the Ranchi-bound Vananchal Express, were among the dead in the accident for which railways are not ruling out sabotage as the cause.

The guard of the Vananchal Express A Mukherjee also died in the mishap which was so severe that the roof and the sides of one of the compartments mounted the road overbridge across the tracks in the station, 191 kms from Kolkata, in Eastern Railway.

A part of another compartment of the Vananchal Express split and fell on the road along the tracks after being thrown over the bridge.   

”A total of 60 persons, including three railway employees, have lost their lives in the accident when three rear coaches including one luggage van and two unreserved general second class coaches of the Vananchal Express were affected,” an Eastern Railway release said here.

The accident occurred at 2:00 am when the New Coochbehar-Sealdah Uttarbanga Express came on the same track and rammed into the Bhagalpur-Ranchi Vananchal Express which was leaving platform number four at Sainthia station. Eastern Railway General Manager V N Tripathi did not rule out sabotage, which Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee hinted this morning when she said “we have doubts about the cause of the accident, the second in West Bengal in two months”.

Soldiers and onlookers gather near the wreckage of train carriages at Sainthia

The General Manager said the train was in speed and ”what caused this we will have to find out. The driver is a very good driver and we are also puzzled”. Asked whether sabotage could be behind the accident, he said, “Possibly. Nothing could be ruled out”.

Though the railways were hesitant to come out with the reason for the accident, the second in two months in West Bengal after the Jyaneshwari Express disaster that claimed 148 lives, an apparent overshooting of the signal by the driver of the Uttarbanga Express could be the reason behind this.Eastern Railway sources in Kolkata and Railway Board sources in Delhi said the Uttarbanga Express, which has a scheduled stop at Sainthia, was running at a high speed, overshot the signal and ploughed into the Vananchal Express.

The scheduled arrival and departure of Uttarbanga Express at Sainthia was 1.38 am and 1.39 am. It was not clear why the train, which was to halt at the station, was at a high speed.

The sources said the up line was clear and no train on that route has yet been cancelled.

Eastern Railway has opened control rooms following the accident. The stations and their phone numbers are Sealdah (033-23503535, 033-23503537), Malda (06436-222061), Bhagalpur (06412-4222433), Jamalpur (063444-3101).

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Chairman of Railway Board Vivek Sahay, Railway Board Member (Electrical) Sudesh Kumar and Director General of Railway Health Service B K Ramteke, Eastern Railway General Manager V N Tripathy and other senior officials have left for Sainthia.

Relief trains from Rampurhat, Asansol and Burdwan have left for the accident spot, about 191 km from Kolkata.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi today condoled the loss of lives in the train accident in West Bengal's Birbhum district. She conveyed her deep condolences to the bereaved families and wished speedy recovery to the injured.