Sainthia: A speeding express train rammed into the rear of another killing more than 50 people and injuring over 150 at the Sainthia station in Bhirbhum district of West Bengal, apparently after overshooting 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.
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 foot overbridge across the platforms in the station, 191 kms from Kolkata, in Eastern Railway.
Among the dead were 39 men, eight women and two babies, officials said.
West Bengal Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh said, “The toll has crossed 50 and two or three more bodies might be found, which might take the toll to 55.”
Hospital sources in Suri and Sainthia said more than 50 bodies have been recovered, while over 150 passengers, including 35 in a critical condition, were admitted.
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.
The accident occurred at 1:54 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.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee seemed to raise doubts whether it was a sheer accident because it happened in West Bengal in two months.
“We have so many doubts in our mind. Whatever has happened is not casual,” she told reporters before leaving for the spot.
She announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs five lakh each for the kin of the dead, Rs 1 lakh for grievously injured and Rs 25,000 for the other injured. Employment for one of the members of the victims’ families will be given in railways, she said.
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.