Sixty killed as trains collide in West Bengal

SAINTHIA Mon Jul 19, 2010 6:09pm IST

Soldiers and onlookers gather near the wreckage of train carriages at the site of an accident at Sainthia in West Bengal July 19, 2010. A speeding passenger train crashed into another waiting at Sainthia station early on Monday, killing at least 60 people in India's second major accident in as many months, officials said. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

Soldiers and onlookers gather near the wreckage of train carriages at the site of an accident at Sainthia in West Bengal July 19, 2010. A speeding passenger train crashed into another waiting at Sainthia station early on Monday, killing at least 60 people in India's second major accident in as many months, officials said.

Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

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SAINTHIA (Reuters) - A speeding passenger train crashed into another waiting at Sainthia station in West Bengal early on Monday, killing at least 60 people in India's second major accident in as many months, officials said.

At least 100 people were injured in the crash, which occurred in in the early hours of the morning. In May, a train sabotage blamed on Maoist rebels killed 145 people. The Maoists denied the charge.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee said officials were investigating the cause of the accident. When asked if she suspected sabotage, she said: "We have some doubts in our mind".

Other officials, however, said foul play in Monday's incident was unlikely. Some TV channels quoted unnamed railway officials as saying "tampering" with signals could not be ruled out.

The accident occurred when the Uttar Banga Express rammed into the stationary Vananchal Express at Sainthia, said Saumitra Mohan, the area's district magistrate.

"The death toll has gone up to 60," Samir Goswami, a railway spokesman, said. "It looks like this is the final toll. There are also several seriously injured (people) undergoing treatment in hospitals."

The impact of the crash saw several coaches thrown upwards in a mangled heap. Thousands of people milled around the accident site. Some helped in rescue operations.

Television images showed rescue workers cutting through the wreckage to pull out survivors. Some passengers were seen climbing out of emergency exit windows.

"It was dark, maybe around 2:15 a.m. (2045 GMT), and people were crying for help. One coach was flung onto an over-bridge under the impact," Sandip Kumar Mondal, among the earliest to reach the spot and rescue some people, told Reuters.

With a 63,327-kilometre (39,350 mile) network, the railways play a key role, transporting more than 18 million passengers and more than 2 million tonnes of freight daily.

But the system is plagued by overcrowding and outdated technology such as signalling systems. Every day, about 8 million passengers cram onto commuter trains in the financial hub of Mumbai, with roughly a dozen fatalities daily.

(Additional reporting by Bappa Majumdar; writing by Krittivas Mukherjee, editing by Miral Fahmy)

(For more news on Reuters India, click in.reuters.com)

(For more news on Reuters India, click in.reuters.com)

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