Train tragedy toll rises to 98, bodies decaying

Jhargram (West Bengal), May 29 (IANS) The putrefying stench of decaying bodies filled the air here Saturday as the toll in Friday’s train accident rose to 98. The authorities said more casualties were expected as a very badly-mangled coach was yet to be prised open.

More than 36 hours after the Mumbai-bound Gyaneshwari Super Deluxe Express met with the accident, rescue workers were yet to enter a second class sleeper coach S5. It had borne the brunt of collision with a goods train when the passenger train got derailed between Sardiha and Khemasuli railway stations.

‘It is completely devastated. I am pained to say that there is very remote chance of anyone being found alive in that coach’ state Civil Defence Minister Srikumar Mukherjee told mediapersons at the accident spot, about 155 km from Kolkata.

‘So far 98 bodies have been recovered. The toll could rise heavily once bodies are brought out from S5 coach,’ Mukherjee said. State Director General of Police Bhupinder Singh said 167 other passengers were injured in the accident.

Meanwhile, rescue workers, medical teams, railwaymen policemen and central troopers at the site in West Midnapore district were searching for survivors and extricating bodies amidst the smell of decaying bodies in the heat.

‘The bodies are rotting. Thirty six hours have elapsed after the accident,’ said a rescue worker, who had put on a mask like others.

A police official said the toll is likely to cross 110.

The train went off the tracks between Sardiha and Khemasuli railway stations after suspected Maoists removed 1.5 feet of rail track, at 1.30 a.m. Friday rudely shaking the hundreds of sleeping passengers. Five coaches fell on a parallel track.

Unfortunately, even before the trapped passengers could realise what had happened, a speeding goods train coming from the opposite direction rammed into the five coaches, crushing some of them.

DGP Bhupinder Singh said the fishplates were found removed.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, however, claimed the derailment was caused by a bomb blast.

Many of the injured passengers, admitted in hospitals in the nearest towns of Kharagpur and Midnapore, were serious. Fourteen very critical patients, including some children, have been shifted to the state’s premier S.S.K.M. Hospital in Kolkata.

‘The condition of almost all of them is grave. Some of them have bandages covering the entire body,’ said a doctor at S.S.K.M. Hospital.

Nine others have been admitted in serious condition in other Kolkata hospitals.

Police found two posters put out by the Maoist-backed People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities, a tribal group, at the accident site claiming responsibility for the sabotage.

It was the third worst train accident this year blamed on Maoist guerrillas and the worst bout of killings by the rebels since they massacred 76 security personnel in Chhattisgarh April 6.