Hours of horror after train crash
Death toll reaches 61 in collision that destroyed cars in eastern India
SAINTHIA, India — The 22-yearold was asleep on the overnight train, headed to his distant job at a call center, when an enormous jolt awakened him and the train car flipped. He lay with his leg broken for five hours, crushed under the dead bodies of other passengers as he waited for help.
The powerful crash between two express trains at a station in eastern India early Monday morning killed 61 people and injured scores more. The force of the crash was so intense the roof of one car was thrust onto an overpass above the tracks.
Accidents are relatively common on India’s sprawling rail network, which is one of the world’s largest but lacks modern signaling and communication systems. Most crashes are blamed on poor maintenance and human error.
It was the second major train crash in West Bengal state in two months. On May 28, a passenger train derailed and was hit by a cargo train, killing 145 people. Authorities blamed sabotage by Maoist rebels for that crash.
Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the site of Monday’s crash and raised the possibility it was another case of sabotage. But there was no immediate indication that rebels were to blame.
A handful of accidents in north India in January killed at least a dozen people and were blamed on heavy winter fog that impaired visibility.
However, accidents as deadly as Monday’s crash are rare.
It happened about 2 a.m. when the fast-moving Uttarbanga Express slammed into the Vananchal Express as it was leaving the platform at Sainthia station, about 125 miles north of Calcutta.
Two passenger cars and a luggage car of the Vananchal Express were destroyed, leaving a tangle of twisted metal.
Residents scrambled onto the crashed cars, searching for survi- vors. Hours later, they said, rescue workers arrived, bringing heavy equipment to cut through debris.
“I had fallen asleep and woke up when I felt an enormous jolt and then suddenly I felt my coach turning over,” said the 22-year-old, Mithun Mahato.
“Three or four passengers fell on top of me and my right leg broke. I lay there crushed under dead bodies for a long time. At least three people sitting next to me in the coach died.
“I was trapped there in horrible pain until rescue workers with gas cutters cut into the coach and pulled me out.” He was pulled out about 7 a.m., nearly five hours after the crash.
Rescuers recovered 61 bodies from the crash site and at least 125 other people were injured, said Surajit Kar Purkayastha, a top police official. The two drivers of the Uttarbanga Express were among the dead.
Rescue operations were finished by late Monday evening, said Samir Goswami, a railway spokesman. Cranes and laborers were working to remove the mangled coaches so the tracks could be cleared.