311_India train blast.
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
SARDIHA, India — Suspected Maoist rebels derailed an overnight passenger train which subsequently crashed into a cargo train in eastern India on Friday, killing at least 65 people and injuring an additional 200, officials said.
The derailment took place in an isolated, rural stronghold of India's Maoist rebels who have stepped up attacks in recent months and had called for a four-day general strike starting Friday.
Survivors described a night of screaming and chaos after the blast and said it took rescuers more than three hours to reach the scene. The blue passenger train and the red cargo train were knotted together in mangled metal along a rural stretch of track near the small town of Sardiha, about 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of Calcutta.
Nearly 10 hours after the blast, railway police and paramilitary soldiers were using blowtorches and cables to try to reach at least a dozen passengers still trapped in the wreckage, according to A.P. Mishra, general manager of the railway system in that area.
The passenger train was traveling from Calcutta to the Mumbai suburb of
Kurla when 13 cars derailed. A cargo train then slammed into three of
the cars from the other direction, Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee
Officials disagreed on the cause of the derailment, with some saying it
was caused by an explosion but others blaming sabotaged rail lines. Home
Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said in a statement that a section of
the railway tracks had been cut, but "whether explosives were used is
not yet clear."
Helicopters were eventually brought in to help evacuate the injured to
local hospitals, officials said.