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60 dead, 90 injured in India train crash

A passenger train slams into a stopped train at Sainthia in the eastern state of West Bengal, the site of a rail disaster in late May that was ruled an act of sabotage by Maoist rebels.

July 20, 2010|By Anshul Rana and Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times
  • An unidentified man weeps over the death of his relative outside a hospital morgue in Souri.
An unidentified man weeps over the death of his relative outside a hospital… (Jayanta Dey / Reuters )

Reporting from New Delhi and Islamabad, Pakistan — A speeding passenger train slammed into another train stopped at a depot in eastern India early Monday, killing at least 60 people and injuring 90 in the second major rail disaster in the region in just over seven weeks.

The collision occurred in the eastern state of West Bengal, the site of a May 28 crash between a passenger train and a cargo train that killed 145. In that crash, the passenger train derailed before striking the cargo train, and authorities eventually blamed the incident on sabotage by Maoist rebels.

Indian authorities said they were still investigating the cause of Monday's crash. Railway Board Chairman Vivek Sahay said it was possible the crash was caused by human error, adding that "no effort was made by the driver of the Uttarbanga express to stop the train."

The Uttarbanga was the passenger train that rammed into the rear of the stationary Vananchal express at a station in Sainthia, about 130 miles from Kolkata, formerly Calcutta. The area of West Bengal state is a Maoist stronghold that has seen several recent attacks.

Other railway authorities said they had yet to rule out sabotage. Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee called the circumstances behind the crash suspicious.

"We have some strong doubt in our minds, because whatever happened is not a casual thing," Banerjee said. "We will investigate and take strong steps."

The impact of the crash destroyed three coaches and flung the roof and sides of another onto a railroad overpass. The three coaches of the Vananchal were packed with passengers.

"There was a big jolt, and the train derailed and started shaking," Chotu Kumar, 8, told an Indian television channel. "We all fell to the floor. We could walk, so we came to the hospital on our own."

alex.rodriguez@latimes.com

Special correspondent Rana reported from New Delhi and Times staff writer Rodriguez from Islamabad.

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